The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 8

substitute to perform this labor, and as our own
people will not hire out for labor in the mines it has been necessary
to obtain slaves, and I do not need to tell you that slaves are not won
without fighting. We sell these slaves in the public market, the
proceeds going, half and half, to the government and the warriors who
bring them in. The purchasers are credited with the amount of labor
performed by their particular slaves. At the end of a year a good slave
will have performed the labor tax of his master for six years, and if
slaves are plentiful he is freed and permitted to return to his own
people."

"You fight in platinum and diamonds?" asked Tara, indicating his
gorgeous trappings with a quizzical smile.

Gahan laughed. "We are a vain people," he admitted, good-naturedly,
"and it is possible that we place too much value on personal
appearances. We vie with one another in the splendor of our
accoutrements when trapped for the observance of the lighter duties of
life, though when we take the field our leather is the plainest I ever
have seen worn by fighting men of Barsoom. We pride ourselves, too,
upon our physical beauty, and especially upon the beauty of our women.
May I dare to say, Tara of Helium, that I am hoping for the day when
you will visit Gathol that my people may see one who is really
beautiful?"

"The women of Helium are taught to frown with displeasure upon the
tongue of the flatterer," rejoined the girl, but Gahan, Jed of Gathol,
observed that she smiled as she said it.

A bugle sounded, clear and sweet, above the laughter and the talk. "The
Dance of Barsoom!" exclaimed the young warrior. "I claim you for it,
Tara of Helium."

The girl glanced in the direction of the bench where she had last seen
Djor Kantos. He was not in sight. She inclined her head in assent to
the claim of the Gatholian. Slaves were passing among the guests,
distributing small musical instruments of a single string. Upon each
instrument were characters which indicated the pitch and length of its
tone. The instruments were of skeel, the string of gut, and were shaped
to fit the left forearm of the dancer, to which it was strapped. There
was also a ring wound with gut which was worn between the first and
second joints of the index finger of the right hand and which, when
passed over the string of the instrument, elicited the single note
required of the dancer.

The guests had risen and were

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