The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 68

that you eat human flesh?" I asked in horror.

She looked at me in pitying commiseration for my ignorance.

"Truly we eat the flesh of the lower orders. Do not you also?"

"The flesh of beasts, yes," I replied, "but not the flesh of man."

"As man may eat of the flesh of beasts, so may gods eat of the flesh of
man. The Holy Therns are the gods of Barsoom."

I was disgusted and I imagine that I showed it.

"You are an unbeliever now," she continued gently, "but should we be
fortunate enough to escape the clutches of the black pirates and come
again to the court of Matai Shang I think that we shall find an
argument to convince you of the error of your ways. And--," she
hesitated, "perhaps we shall find a way to keep you as--as--one of us."

Again her eyes dropped to the floor, and a faint colour suffused her
cheek. I could not understand her meaning; nor did I for a long time.
Dejah Thoris was wont to say that in some things I was a veritable
simpleton, and I guess that she was right.

"I fear that I would ill requite your father's hospitality," I
answered, "since the first thing that I should do were I a thern would
be to set an armed guard at the mouth of the River Iss to escort the
poor deluded voyagers back to the outer world. Also should I devote my
life to the extermination of the hideous plant men and their horrible
companions, the great white apes."

She looked at me really horror struck.

"No, no," she cried, "you must not say such terribly sacrilegious
things--you must not even think them. Should they ever guess that you
entertained such frightful thoughts, should we chance to regain the
temples of the therns, they would mete out a frightful death to you.
Not even my--my--" Again she flushed, and started over. "Not even I
could save you."

I said no more. Evidently it was useless. She was even more steeped
in superstition than the Martians of the outer world. They only
worshipped a beautiful hope for a life of love and peace and happiness
in the hereafter. The therns worshipped the hideous plant men and the
apes, or at least they reverenced them as the abodes of the departed
spirits of their own dead.

At this point the door of our prison opened to admit Xodar.

He smiled pleasantly at me, and when he smiled his expression was
kindly--anything but

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