The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 17

which he had reached with such infinite labour, and
as I flung the last of my immediate antagonists from me the great Thark
leaped to my side, and again we fought, back to back, as we had done a
hundred times before.

Time and again the ferocious apes sprang in to close with us, and time
and again we beat them back with our swords. The great tails of the
plant men lashed with tremendous power about us as they charged from
various directions or sprang with the agility of greyhounds above our
heads; but every attack met a gleaming blade in sword hands that had
been reputed for twenty years the best that Mars ever had known; for
Tars Tarkas and John Carter were names that the fighting men of the
world of warriors loved best to speak.

But even the two best swords in a world of fighters can avail not for
ever against overwhelming numbers of fierce and savage brutes that know
not what defeat means until cold steel teaches their hearts no longer
to beat, and so, step by step, we were forced back. At length we stood
against the giant tree that we had chosen for our ascent, and then, as
charge after charge hurled its weight upon us, we gave back again and
again, until we had been forced half-way around the huge base of the
colossal trunk.

Tars Tarkas was in the lead, and suddenly I heard a little cry of
exultation from him.

"Here is shelter for one at least, John Carter," he said, and, glancing
down, I saw an opening in the base of the tree about three feet in
diameter.

"In with you, Tars Tarkas," I cried, but he would not go; saying that
his bulk was too great for the little aperture, while I might slip in
easily.

"We shall both die if we remain without, John Carter; here is a slight
chance for one of us. Take it and you may live to avenge me, it is
useless for me to attempt to worm my way into so small an opening with
this horde of demons besetting us on all sides."

"Then we shall die together, Tars Tarkas," I replied, "for I shall not
go first. Let me defend the opening while you get in, then my smaller
stature will permit me to slip in with you before they can prevent."

We still were fighting furiously as we talked in broken sentences,
punctured with vicious cuts and thrusts at our swarming enemy.

At length he yielded, for it seemed the only

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