The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 28

have sworn that she saw something move in the
shadows beneath a tree not far away. For a long minute the girl did not
move--she scarce breathed. Her eyes remained fixed upon the dense
shadows below the tree, her ears strained through the silence of the
night. A low moaning came down from the hills where her flier was
hidden. She knew it well--the weird note of the hunting banth. And the
great carnivore lay directly in her path. But he was not so close as
this other thing, hiding there in the shadows just a little way off.
What was it? It was the strain of uncertainty that weighed heaviest
upon her. Had she known the nature of the creature lurking there half
its menace would have vanished. She cast quickly about her in search of
some haven of refuge should the thing prove dangerous.

Again arose the moaning from the hills, but this time closer. Almost
immediately it was answered from the opposite side of the valley,
behind her, and then from the distance to the right of her, and twice
upon her left. Her eyes had found a tree, quite near. Slowly, and
without taking her eyes from the shadows of that other tree, she moved
toward the overhanging branches that might afford her sanctuary in the
event of need, and at her first move a low growl rose from the spot she
had been watching and she heard the sudden moving of a big body.
Simultaneously the creature shot into the moonlight in full charge upon
her, its tail erect, its tiny ears laid flat, its great mouth with its
multiple rows of sharp and powerful fangs already yawning for its prey,
its ten legs carrying it forward in great leaps, and now from the
beast's throat issued the frightful roar with which it seeks to
paralyze its prey. It was a banth--the great, maned lion of Barsoom.
Tara of Helium saw it coming and leaped for the tree toward which she
had been moving, and the banth realized her intention and redoubled his
speed. As his hideous roar awakened the echoes in the hills, so too it
awakened echoes in the valley; but these echoes came from the living
throats of others of his kind, until it seemed to the girl that Fate
had thrown her into the midst of a countless multitude of these savage
beasts.

Almost incredibly swift is the speed of a charging banth, and fortunate
it was that the girl had not been caught farther in the open. As it
was, her margin of safety was

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