A Princess of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 126

my chieftain that was, and whom
I thought dead, had you but returned one little hour before--but now it
is too late, too late."

"What do you mean, Dejah Thoris?" I cried. "That you would not have
promised yourself to the Zodangan prince had you known that I lived?"

"Think you, John Carter, that I would give my heart to you yesterday
and today to another? I thought that it lay buried with your ashes in
the pits of Warhoon, and so today I have promised my body to another to
save my people from the curse of a victorious Zodangan army."

"But I am not dead, my princess. I have come to claim you, and all
Zodanga cannot prevent it."

"It is too late, John Carter, my promise is given, and on Barsoom that
is final. The ceremonies which follow later are but meaningless
formalities. They make the fact of marriage no more certain than does
the funeral cortege of a jeddak again place the seal of death upon him.
I am as good as married, John Carter. No longer may you call me your
princess. No longer are you my chieftain."

"I know but little of your customs here upon Barsoom, Dejah Thoris, but
I do know that I love you, and if you meant the last words you spoke to
me that day as the hordes of Warhoon were charging down upon us, no
other man shall ever claim you as his bride. You meant them then, my
princess, and you mean them still! Say that it is true."

"I meant them, John Carter," she whispered. "I cannot repeat them now
for I have given myself to another. Ah, if you had only known our
ways, my friend," she continued, half to herself, "the promise would
have been yours long months ago, and you could have claimed me before
all others. It might have meant the fall of Helium, but I would have
given my empire for my Tharkian chief."

Then aloud she said: "Do you remember the night when you offended me?
You called me your princess without having asked my hand of me, and
then you boasted that you had fought for me. You did not know, and I
should not have been offended; I see that now. But there was no one to
tell you what I could not, that upon Barsoom there are two kinds of
women in the cities of the red men. The one they fight for that they
may

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