The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 67

detected in the act of staring at a lesser creature, I
thought.

"Do you find the study of the lower orders interesting?" I asked,
laughing.

She looked up again with a nervous but relieved little laugh.

"Oh very," she said, "especially when they have such excellent
profiles."

It was my turn to flush, but I did not. I felt that she was poking fun
at me, and I admired a brave heart that could look for humour on the
road to death, and so I laughed with her.

"Do you know where we are going?" she said.

"To solve the mystery of the eternal hereafter, I imagine," I replied.

"I am going to a worse fate than that," she said, with a little shudder.

"What do you mean?"

"I can only guess," she replied, "since no thern damsel of all the
millions that have been stolen away by black pirates during the ages
they have raided our domains has ever returned to narrate her
experiences among them. That they never take a man prisoner lends
strength to the belief that the fate of the girls they steal is worse
than death."

"Is it not a just retribution?" I could not help but ask.

"What do you mean?"

"Do not the therns themselves do likewise with the poor creatures who
take the voluntary pilgrimage down the River of Mystery? Was not
Thuvia for fifteen years a plaything and a slave? Is it less than just
that you should suffer as you have caused others to suffer?"

"You do not understand," she replied. "We therns are a holy race. It
is an honour to a lesser creature to be a slave among us. Did we not
occasionally save a few of the lower orders that stupidly float down an
unknown river to an unknown end all would become the prey of the plant
men and the apes."

"But do you not by every means encourage the superstition among those
of the outside world?" I argued. "That is the wickedest of your deeds.
Can you tell me why you foster the cruel deception?"

"All life on Barsoom," she said, "is created solely for the support of
the race of therns. How else could we live did the outer world not
furnish our labour and our food? Think you that a thern would demean
himself by labour?"

"It is true then 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

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