The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 15

made, for the green men of Barsoom
do not relish flight, nor ever before had I seen one fleeing from death
in whatsoever form it might have confronted him. But that Tars Tarkas
was the bravest of the brave he had proven thousands of times; yes,
tens of thousands in countless mortal combats with men and beasts. And
so I knew that there was another reason than fear of death behind his
flight, as he knew that a greater power than pride or honour spurred me
to escape these fierce destroyers. In my case it was love--love of the
divine Dejah Thoris; and the cause of the Thark's great and sudden love
of life I could not fathom, for it is oftener that they seek death than
life--these strange, cruel, loveless, unhappy people.

At length, however, we reached the shadows of the forest, while right
behind us sprang the swiftest of our pursuers--a giant plant man with
claws outreaching to fasten his bloodsucking mouths upon us.

He was, I should say, a hundred yards in advance of his closest
companion, and so I called to Tars Tarkas to ascend a great tree that
brushed the cliff's face while I dispatched the fellow, thus giving the
less agile Thark an opportunity to reach the higher branches before the
entire horde should be upon us and every vestige of escape cut off.

But I had reckoned without a just appreciation either of the cunning of
my immediate antagonist or the swiftness with which his fellows were
covering the distance which had separated them from me.

As I raised my long-sword to deal the creature its death thrust it
halted in its charge and, as my sword cut harmlessly through the empty
air, the great tail of the thing swept with the power of a grizzly's
arm across the sward and carried me bodily from my feet to the ground.
In an instant the brute was upon me, but ere it could fasten its
hideous mouths into my breast and throat I grasped a writhing tentacle
in either hand.

The plant man was well muscled, heavy, and powerful but my earthly
sinews and greater agility, in conjunction with the deathly strangle
hold I had upon him, would have given me, I think, an eventual victory
had we had time to discuss the merits of our relative prowess
uninterrupted. But as we strained and struggled about the tree into
which Tars Tarkas was clambering with infinite difficulty, I suddenly
caught a glimpse over the shoulder of my antagonist of the great swarm
of pursuers that

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