A Princess of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 49

battle with self, with heredity, with
age-old custom, and as he opened his mouth to speak, a look almost of
benignity, of kindliness, momentarily lighted up his fierce and
terrible countenance.

What words of moment were to have fallen from his lips were never
spoken, as just then a young warrior, evidently sensing the trend of
thought among the older men, leaped down from the steps of the rostrum,
and striking the frail captive a powerful blow across the face, which
felled her to the floor, placed his foot upon her prostrate form and
turning toward the assembled council broke into peals of horrid,
mirthless laughter.

For an instant I thought Tars Tarkas would strike him dead, nor did the
aspect of Lorquas Ptomel augur any too favorably for the brute, but the
mood passed, their old selves reasserted their ascendency, and they
smiled. It was portentous however that they did not laugh aloud, for
the brute's act constituted a side-splitting witticism according to the
ethics which rule green Martian humor.

That I have taken moments to write down a part of what occurred as that
blow fell does not signify that I remained inactive for any such length
of time. I think I must have sensed something of what was coming, for
I realize now that I was crouched as for a spring as I saw the blow
aimed at her beautiful, upturned, pleading face, and ere the hand
descended I was halfway across the hall.

Scarcely had his hideous laugh rang out but once, when I was upon him.
The brute was twelve feet in height and armed to the teeth, but I
believe that I could have accounted for the whole roomful in the
terrific intensity of my rage. Springing upward, I struck him full in
the face as he turned at my warning cry and then as he drew his
short-sword I drew mine and sprang up again upon his breast, hooking
one leg over the butt of his pistol and grasping one of his huge tusks
with my left hand while I delivered blow after blow upon his enormous
chest.

He could not use his short-sword to advantage because I was too close
to him, nor could he draw his pistol, which he attempted to do in
direct opposition to Martian custom which says that you may not fight a
fellow warrior in private combat with any other than the weapon with
which you are attacked. In fact he could do nothing but make a wild
and futile attempt to dislodge me. With all his immense bulk

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