Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Webpages in Archive
Volume 1315
A Graphic Interpretation of
Edgar Rice Burroughs'
A Princess of Mars
James Killian Spratt
A Duel to the Death
My first impulse was to tell her of my love, 
but realizing her helplessness, her silence, 
and the fact that she probably 
did not return it, 
I held my tongue. 
I did not care to add to 
the discomfort of her situation, 
since I alone could protect her, 
and it might seem
that I was taking advantage 
of her dire conditions.

We walked slowly along the 
Great Avenue in the moonlights 
and it seemed that 
we were alone in the Universe. 
At length I asked her if 
she would like to go back to her building. 
"No," she said, "I am quite happy 
when you are with me,
John Carter, as though with you,
I shall see my home again, 
and feel my mother's kisses on my cheek."

"So people kiss on Barsoom?"
I asked her. 
"Well, parents, brothers and sisters, yes; 
and --" she added in a low,
thoughtful tone, "lovers."
"And you have, parents and brothers 
and sisters?" I asked.
"And a -- lover?"


She was quiet,
nor would I repeat the question. 
Finally she said,
"The man of Barsoom does not ask 
such questions of women, 
except his mother, 
or the woman he has fought for
and won."

"But I have fought -- " 
I started.

-- and then wished my tongue 
had been cut from my mouth;
for she turned even as I ceased, 
and, drawing my silks 
from her shoulders without a word, 
moved, head held high 
and with the carriage of 
the queen she was, 
toward the doorway of her quarters. 

I did not attempt to follow her, 
other than to see that 
she reached the building in safety, 
but directing Woola to accompany her,
I turned disconsolately 
and entered my own house. 

So I sat, for hours,
cross-legged and cross-tempered 
upon my silks. 
So this was love! 
I had escaped it for all the years
I had roamed the earth, 
despite beautiful women 
and urging opportunity.
In spite of my ideals,
to fall helplessly for a woman 
of another world, 
hatched from an egg, 
who might live a thousand years. . .
A woman so strange, 
her people, her ways, 
her standards . . .

I was a fool, but I was in love; 
and I would not have traded my sweet misery
for all the riches of Barsoom. . . 
She was all that was perfect; 
all that was virtuous and beautiful 
and noble and good. . . .

The morning of our departure for Thark 
dawned clear and hot 
as do all Martian mornings, 
except for the six weeks of Polar icemelt.


I sought out Dejah Thoris 
in the throng of departing chariots,
but she turned her shoulder to me,
the red blood mounting her cheek.

I looked into the chariot,
stubbornly, foolishly returning her silence, 
duty-bound to see to her comfort; 
in rearranging her furs, I noted with horror
that she was heavily chained by one ankle
to the side of the vehicle.
"What does this mean?" I cried, turning to Sola.

"Sarkoja thought it best," 
she answered, clearly disapproving,
"and wears the key."
Without another word,
I turned to seek out Tars Tarkas -- 
This would not do.

"John Carter," he said, "if you escape,
it will be soon, and we know that you 
will not leave without her. 
You are a mighty fighter, and 
we do not wish to manacle you. 
Would you give your word not to run away with her, 
I would give you the key."

I said, "It were better that you keep the key."
He looked at me long and earnestly,
then smiled and said no more. . . 
He took the key from Sarkoja, 
to her great disappointment, 
and that night when we made camp 
I saw him unfasten Dejah Thoris' fetters himself. 
Despite his outward coldness, there was, 
deep within him, a current of humanity.

Later that night, 
as I approached Dejah Thoris' chariot 
I passed Sarkoja,
whose venomous look 
was the sweetest balm 
I had felt for many hours. 


Dejah Thoris would have none of me again, 
even though I spoke her name. 
In the distance I could see Sarkoja -- 
Lord, how she hated me! -- 
talking intently with a great hulking brute
named Zad, 
who cast occasional glances our way. 
I asked Sola what was wrong with Dejah Thoris.

She says you have angered her.
That she is the daughter of a jed, 
and the grand-daughter of a jeddak,
and she has been humiliated 
by one who is not fit to 
polish the teeth of her grandmother's sorak.

I had to ponder this a bit, 
so I asked Sola what a sorak was.
"A little animal about as big as my hand; 
the red women keep them as pets." 

At first I was a little stunned, 
but then it struck me as enormously funny, 
and endearing. 
It was so much like 
"not fit to polish her shoes" 
that it made me homesick, 
and oddly set me thinking of 
my little nephews in Virginia.
So I wasn't fit to polish the
teeth of her grandmother's cat!
Then, laughing, I turned to sleep
on the moon-haunted ground.

We broke camp at an early hour
and marched until almost dark 
with but a single halt;
about mid-day we espied an incubator
of the green men of Warhoon, 
and made short work of 
the hundred or so small eggs, 
but recently placed. 
A new-laid Thark egg is about
the size of a goose egg, 
growing to nearly two feet 
during its five year incubation. 


Shortly later we halted for a brief rest. 
I was changing my riding tack 
from one of my mounts to the other, 
as it was my habit
to divide the day's work between them,
when Zad approached me, 
and without a word struck my animal 
a terrific blow with his long-sword.

I did not need a Martian etiquette manual
to make my reply; 
he stood waiting with drawn long sword. 
I was so wild with anger 
that for a moment I might have shot the brute, 
but drew my sword, 
the better to best him 
with his own weapon, in a fair fight.


At first he tried to rush me
like a bull after a wolf, 
but I was much too quick for him.


Each time he charged
I easily sidestepped him, 
and soon he was streaming blood
from a half a dozen nicks; 
and he became wary, 
using his considerable skill 
now rather than brute strength.


We circled for some time 
doing little damage, when Zad,
clearly tiring decided to end it with a rush. 
Just as he charged, 
a blinding flash of light hit my eyes 
-- and, unable to see, 
I sidestepped desperately,
and got his point in my shoulder.

Then -- in a fleeting instant
I saw a strange tableau on
Dejah Thoris' chariot.
She, Sola, and behind them Sarkoja, 
holding a tiny mirror to --

Click for full size
-- Blind me!
In a flash, Dejah Thoris saw it too, 
and turned on Sarkoja like a young tigress;
the mirror flashed in the sun 
as it spun to the ground.


In a fury of hatred and baffled rage, 
I saw Sarkoja whip out her dagger and 
aim a terrific blow at Dejah Thoris, 
and the last glance revealed Sola 
-- beloved, faithful Sola -- 
leaping between them and 
Sarkoja's blade descending upon her breast. 
Distracted, I felt Zad's point on my chest and, 
determined not to die alone,
threw myself upon him 
with all my weight and strength. 
I felt the steel tear into my chest, 
and all went black. . . 

Intro | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 15a | 16 | 16a | 17 | 17a | 18 | 19 | 19a | 19b | 20 | 20a | 20b |
| 21 | 21a | 21b |

Send all correspondence to

ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
and all associated characters and their distinctive likenesses
are owned by ERB, Inc. and used by permission.
No part of this Web site may be reproduced without permission.