The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 132

than because of any evidence against me, and so I
knew that if I acknowledged you as one of us, you would be slain, too."

"It was to save me, then?" he cried, his face suddenly lighting.

"It was to save my brave panthan," she said in a low voice.

"Tara of Helium," said the warrior, dropping to one knee, "your words
are as food to my hungry heart," and he took her fingers in his and
pressed them to his lips.

Gently she raised him to his feet. "You need not tell me, kneeling,"
she said, softly.

Her hand was still in his as he rose and they were very close, and the
man was still flushed with the contact of her body since he had carried
her from the throne room of O-Tar. He felt his heart pounding in his
breast and the hot blood surging through his veins as he looked at her
beautiful face, with its downcast eyes and the half-parted lips that he
would have given a kingdom to possess, and then he swept her to him and
as he crushed her against his breast his lips smothered hers with
kisses.

But only for an instant. Like a tigress the girl turned upon him,
striking him, and thrusting him away. She stepped back, her head high
and her eyes flashing fire. "You would dare?" she cried. "You would
dare thus defile a princess of Helium?"

His eyes met hers squarely and there was no shame and no remorse in
them.

"Yes, I would dare," he said. "I would dare love Tara of Helium; but I
would not dare defile her or any woman with kisses that were not
prompted by love of her alone." He stepped closer to her and laid his
hands upon her shoulders. "Look into my eyes, daughter of The Warlord,"
he said, "and tell me that you do not wish the love of Turan, the
panthan."

"I do not wish your love," she cried, pulling away. "I hate you!" and
then turning away she bent her head into the hollow of her arm, and
wept.

The man took a step toward her as though to comfort her when he was
arrested by the sound of a crackling laugh behind him. Wheeling about,
he discovered a strange figure of a man standing in a doorway. It was
one of those rarities occasionally to be seen upon Barsoom--an old man
with the signs of age upon him. Bent and wrinkled, he had more the
appearance of a mummy than a man.

"Love in the pits of O-Tar!" he cried, and again

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