The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 167

you wish."

"But do not ask for volunteers," interrupted I-Gos, "or you will go
alone."

The three chiefs turned and left the banquet hall, walking slowly like
doomed men to their fate.

Gahan and Tara remained in the chamber to which Tasor had led them, the
man brushing away the dust from a deep and comfortable bench where they
might rest in comparative comfort. He had found the ancient sleeping
silks and furs too far gone to be of any service, crumbling to powder
at a touch, thus removing any chance of making a comfortable bed for
the girl, and so the two sat together, talking in low tones, of the
adventures through which they already had passed and speculating upon
the future; planning means of escape and hoping Tasor would not be long
gone. They spoke of many things--of Hastor, and Helium, and Ptarth, and
finally the conversation reminded Tara of Gathol.

"You have served there?" she asked.

"Yes," replied Turan.

"I met Gahan the Jed of Gathol at my father's palace," she said, "the
very day before the storm snatched me from Helium--he was a
presumptuous fellow, magnificently trapped in platinum and diamonds.
Never in my life saw I so gorgeous a harness as his, and you must well
know, Turan, that the splendor of all Barsoom passes through the court
at Helium; but in my mind I could not see so resplendent a creature
drawing that jeweled sword in mortal combat. I fear me that the Jed of
Gathol, though a pretty picture of a man, is little else."

In the dim light Tara did not perceive the wry expression upon the
half-averted face of her companion.

"You thought little then of the Jed of Gathol?" he asked.

"Then or now," she replied, and with a little laugh; "how it would
pique his vanity to know, if he might, that a poor panthan had won a
higher place in the regard of Tara of Helium," and she laid her fingers
gently upon his knee.

He seized the fingers in his and carried them to his lips. "O, Tara of
Helium," he cried. "Think you that I am a man of stone?" One arm
slipped about her shoulders and drew the yielding body toward him.

"May my first ancestor forgive me my weakness," she cried, as her arms
stole about his neck and she raised her panting lips to his. For long
they clung there in love's first kiss and then she pushed him away,
gently. "I love you, Turan," she half sobbed; "I love you so! It is my
only poor excuse for having done this

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