The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 63

vantage
point upon a hill that projected further into the valley, and here he
lay upon his belly watching the workers closest to him. They were still
quite a distance from him and he could not be quite sure of them, but
there was something verging upon the unnatural about them. Their heads
seemed out of proportion to their bodies--too large.

For a long time he lay watching them and ever more forcibly it was
borne in upon his consciousness that they were not as he, and that it
would be rash to trust himself among them. Presently he saw a couple
appear from the nearest enclosure and slowly approach those who were
working nearest to the hill where he lay in hiding. Immediately he was
aware that one of these differed from all the others. Even at the
greater distance he noted that the head was smaller and as they
approached, he was confident that the harness of one of them was not as
the harness of its companion or of that of any of those who tilled the
fields.

The two stopped often, apparently in argument, as though one would
proceed in the direction that they were going while the other demurred.
But each time the smaller won reluctant consent from the other, and so
they came closer and closer to the last line of workers toiling between
the enclosure from which they had come and the hill where Gahan of
Gathol lay watching, and then suddenly the smaller figure struck its
companion full in the face. Gahan, horrified, saw the latter's head
topple from its body, saw the body stagger and fall to the ground. The
man half rose from his concealment the better to view the happening in
the valley below. The creature that had felled its companion was
dashing madly in the direction of the hill upon which he was hidden, it
dodged one of the workers that sought to seize it. Gahan hoped that it
would gain its liberty, why he did not know other than at closer range
it had every appearance of being a creature of his own race. Then he
saw it stumble and go down and instantly its pursuers were upon it.
Then it was that Gahan's eyes chanced to return to the figure of the
creature the fugitive had felled.

What horror was this that he was witnessing? Or were his eyes playing
some ghastly joke upon him? No, impossible though it was--it was
true--the head was moving slowly to the fallen body. It placed itself
upon the shoulders, the body rose, and the creature,

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