Thuvia, Maid of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 97

were her own to do with as
she pleased; yet furthest from them was Kulan Tith. Instead the
figure of the tall and comely Heliumite filled her mind, crowding
therefrom all other images.

She dreamed of his noble face, the quiet dignity of his bearing,
the smile that lit his eyes as he conversed with his friends, and
the smile that touched his lips as he fought with his enemies--the
fighting smile of his Virginian sire.

And Thuvia of Ptarth, true daughter of Barsoom, found her breath
quickening and heart leaping to the memory of this other smile--the
smile that she would never see again. With a little half-sob
the girl sank to the pile of silks and furs that were tumbled in
confusion beneath the east windows, burying her face in her arms.

In the corridor outside her prison-room two men had paused in heated
argument.

"I tell you again, Astok," one was saying, "that I shall not do
this thing unless you be present in the room."

There was little of the respect due royalty in the tone of the
speaker's voice. The other, noting it, flushed.

"Do not impose too far upon my friendship for you, Vas Kor," he
snapped. "There is a limit to my patience."

"There is no question of royal prerogative here," returned Vas
Kor. "You ask me to become an assassin in your stead, and against
your jeddak's strict injunctions. You are in no position, Astok,
to dictate to me; but rather should you be glad to accede to my
reasonable request that you be present, thus sharing the guilt with
me. Why should I bear it all?"

The younger man scowled, but he advanced toward the locked door,
and as it swung in upon its hinges, he entered the room beyond at
the side of Vas Kor.

Across the chamber the girl, hearing them enter, rose to her feet
and faced them. Under the soft copper of her skin she blanched
just a trifle; but her eyes were brave and level, and the haughty
tilt of her firm little chin was eloquent of loathing and contempt.

"You still prefer death?" asked Astok.

"To YOU, yes," replied the girl coldly.

The Prince of Dusar turned to Vas Kor and nodded. The noble drew
his short-sword and crossed the room toward Thuvia.

"Kneel!" he commanded.

"I prefer to die standing," she replied.

"As you will," said Vas Kor, feeling the point of his blade with
his left thumb. "In the name of Nutus, Jeddak of Dusar!" he cried,
and ran quickly toward her.

"In the name of

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