The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 24

so that she could scarce take her eyes from them. It
was evident from their groping hands that they were eyeless, and their
sluggish movements suggested a rudimentary nervous system and a
correspondingly minute brain. The girl wondered how they subsisted for
she could not, even by the wildest stretch of imagination, picture
these imperfect creatures as intelligent tillers of the soil. Yet that
the soil of the valley was tilled was evident and that these things had
food was equally so. But who tilled the soil? Who kept and fed these
unhappy things, and for what purpose? It was an enigma beyond her
powers of deduction.

The sight of food aroused again a consciousness of her own gnawing
hunger and the thirst that parched her throat. She could see both food
and water within the enclosure; but would she dare enter even should
she find means of ingress? She doubted it, since the very thought of
possible contact with these grewsome creatures sent a shudder through
her frame.

Then her eyes wandered again out across the valley until presently they
picked out what appeared to be a tiny stream winding its way through
the center of the farm lands--a strange sight upon Barsoom. Ah, if it
were but water! Then might she hope with a real hope, for the fields
would give her sustenance which she could gain by night, while by day
she hid among the surrounding hills, and sometime, yes, sometime she
knew, the searchers would come, for John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom,
would never cease to search for his daughter until every square haad of
the planet had been combed again and again. She knew him and she knew
the warriors of Helium and so she knew that could she but manage to
escape harm until they came, they would indeed come at last.

She would have to wait until dark before she dare venture into the
valley, and in the meantime she thought it well to search out a place
of safety nearby where she might be reasonably safe from savage beasts.
It was possible that the district was free from carnivora, but one
might never be sure in a strange land. As she was about to withdraw
behind the brow of the hill her attention was again attracted to the
enclosure below. Two figures had emerged from the tower. Their
beautiful bodies seemed identical with those of the headless creatures
among which they moved, but the newcomers were not headless. Upon their
shoulders were heads that seemed human, yet which the girl intuitively
sensed were not human. They were just a

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