The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 18

way in which either of us
might be saved from the ever-increasing numbers of our assailants, who
were still swarming upon us from all directions across the broad valley.

"It was ever your way, John Carter, to think last of your own life," he
said; "but still more your way to command the lives and actions of
others, even to the greatest of Jeddaks who rule upon Barsoom."

There was a grim smile upon his cruel, hard face, as he, the greatest
Jeddak of them all, turned to obey the dictates of a creature of
another world--of a man whose stature was less than half his own.

"If you fail, John Carter," he said, "know that the cruel and heartless
Thark, to whom you taught the meaning of friendship, will come out to
die beside you."

"As you will, my friend," I replied; "but quickly now, head first,
while I cover your retreat."

He hesitated a little at that word, for never before in his whole life
of continual strife had he turned his back upon aught than a dead or
defeated enemy.

"Haste, Tars Tarkas," I urged, "or we shall both go down to profitless
defeat; I cannot hold them for ever alone."

As he dropped to the ground to force his way into the tree, the whole
howling pack of hideous devils hurled themselves upon me. To right and
left flew my shimmering blade, now green with the sticky juice of a
plant man, now red with the crimson blood of a great white ape; but
always flying from one opponent to another, hesitating but the barest
fraction of a second to drink the lifeblood in the centre of some
savage heart.

And thus I fought as I never had fought before, against such frightful
odds that I cannot realize even now that human muscles could have
withstood that awful onslaught, that terrific weight of hurtling tons
of ferocious, battling flesh.

With the fear that we would escape them, the creatures redoubled their
efforts to pull me down, and though the ground about me was piled high
with their dead and dying comrades, they succeeded at last in
overwhelming me, and I went down beneath them for the second time that
day, and once again felt those awful sucking lips against my flesh.

But scarce had I fallen ere I felt powerful hands grip my ankles, and
in another second I was being drawn within the shelter of the tree's
interior. For a moment it was a tug of war between Tars Tarkas and a
great plant man, who clung tenaciously to my breast,

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