A Princess of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 35

Every year these eggs are carefully
examined by a council of twenty chieftains, and all but about one
hundred of the most perfect are destroyed out of each yearly supply.
At the end of five years about five hundred almost perfect eggs have
been chosen from the thousands brought forth. These are then placed in
the almost air-tight incubators to be hatched by the sun's rays after a
period of another five years. The hatching which we had witnessed
today was a fairly representative event of its kind, all but about one
per cent of the eggs hatching in two days. If the remaining eggs ever
hatched we knew nothing of the fate of the little Martians. They were
not wanted, as their offspring might inherit and transmit the tendency
to prolonged incubation, and thus upset the system which has maintained
for ages and which permits the adult Martians to figure the proper time
for return to the incubators, almost to an hour.

The incubators are built in remote fastnesses, where there is little or
no likelihood of their being discovered by other tribes. The result of
such a catastrophe would mean no children in the community for another
five years. I was later to witness the results of the discovery of an
alien incubator.

The community of which the green Martians with whom my lot was cast
formed a part was composed of some thirty thousand souls. They roamed
an enormous tract of arid and semi-arid land between forty and eighty
degrees south latitude, and bounded on the east and west by two large
fertile tracts. Their headquarters lay in the southwest corner of this
district, near the crossing of two of the so-called Martian canals.

As the incubator had been placed far north of their own territory in a
supposedly uninhabited and unfrequented area, we had before us a
tremendous journey, concerning which I, of course, knew nothing.

After our return to the dead city I passed several days in comparative
idleness. On the day following our return all the warriors had ridden
forth early in the morning and had not returned until just before
darkness fell. As I later learned, they had been to the subterranean
vaults in which the eggs were kept and had transported them to the
incubator, which they had then walled up for another five years, and
which, in all probability, would not be visited again during that
period.

The vaults which hid the eggs until they were ready for the incubator
were located many miles south of the incubator,

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