Escape on Venus

Chapter VII

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE SREETS of Mypos are narrow and winding. As the Myposans have neither wheeled vehicles nor beasts of burden, their streets need not be wide; and the fact that they are narrow and winding would make the city easier to defend in the event of invasion. A single stalwart Horatius might hold any one of them against a greatly superior force.

In many places our little party of slaves and warriors were compelled to move in single file, the pedestrians we met flattening themselves against the walls of the buildings as we squeezed past. And so we progressed to an open plaza near the water front. Here there were a number of Myposans surrounding a small platform, near which we were halted. Immediately a number of the Myposans congregated there came among us and commenced to examine us, and one with a huge beard mounted the platform. One of those who moved among us attracted his attention and touched Duare on the shoulder.

The bearded one caught Vomer’s eye. “Bring the woman to the platform,” he directed.

I waited as Vomer led Duare up the three or four steps to where the other man stood. What was going to happen? I did not know, but I had my suspicions.

“What do you know of this woman?” asked the man of Vomer.

The fellow who had touched Duare’s shoulder moved forward to the platform, and the others crowded about him.

“She was captured beyond the forest with a man who says that she is a janjong in some country of which no one ever heard,” replied Vomer. “Beyond that I know nothing of her. She has behaved well, but the man is insubordinate and dangerous. He is down there,” and he pointed to me. The man with the large beard fixed his fishy eyes upon me, while Vomer whispered to him earnestly. They spoke together thus for a moment, and then Vomer left the platform.

The man standing beside Duare looked down on the little crowd below him. “Who wishes to buy this fine female slave?” he asked.

So that was it! Well, I had guessed correctly; but what was I going to do about it?

“I will buy her,” said the man who had touched Duare.

I could kill many of them with my pistol; but eventually they would overpower me; and Duare would be, if anything, worse off.

“What will you pay?” demanded the auctioneer.

“One hundred kloovol,” replied the man.

A vol has about the same purchasing power as our fifty-nine cent dollar. Kloo is the prefix forming the plural. So this creature had dared to appraise Duare, daughter of a thousand jongs, at fifty-nine dollars! I fingered the butt of my pistol longingly.

“And who will pay more?” asked the auctioneer.

“Yes, who?” grumbled a Myposan standing near me. “Who would dare bid against Kod, who buys for Tyros?” He spoke in a very low voice to one who stood near him.

There were no other bids, and Duare was knocked down to Kod. I was furious. Duare was to be taken away from me; and, worse still, she was to become the chattel of a heartless tyrant. All my moderate intentions went by the board. I determined to fight it out, killing as many as I could, seize Duare and blast my way to the city gates. With any luck at all I might make it, for the element of surprise in my action would give me a great advantage.

Vomer and the warriors were pressed pretty closely around me. I had not noticed it before; but they had been closing in on me; and now, before I could put my plan into action, they leaped upon me and by weight of numbers bore me to the ground. It was evidently the fruit of Vomer’s whispered conversation with the auctioneer.

Before I could whip out my pistol they bound my hands behind my back, and I was helpless. They did not take my weapon from me, and I knew why. I had said that whoever touched it would die, and they believed me.

While I was down Vomer kicked me in the ribs, and after they had jerked me to my feet he struck me in the face. I don’t know how much further he would have gone had not the auctioneer commanded him to desist.

“Do you want to ruin a valuable piece of property?” he cried. I was smarting under the indignities that Vomer had heaped upon me, but I was more concerned about Duare’s future. The man, Kod, was leading her away; and she was looking back at me with a brave little smile.

“I shall come for you, Duare!” I cried after her. “Somehow, some way I shall come.”

“Silence, slave!” snapped Vomer.

Kandar was standing near me. “Duare is fortunate,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“She was bought for Tyros,” he replied.

“And what is fortunate about that?” I demanded. “It seems to me to augur a future worse than death for a woman such as Duare.”

“You are mistaken. She will serve one of the women of the royal family.”

“Not after Tyros has seen her,” I argued.

“Skabra will see her, and Skabra will see that Tyros does not get her.”

“Who is Skabra?” I asked.

“Tyros’ mate, the Vadjong of Mypos—a she-tharban and a jealous one. You need have no fear that Duare will fall into the hands of Tyros while Skabra lives; she is too beautiful. Were she ill-favored, Skabra might let Tyros have her.”

Well, that offered a ray of hope; and I was thankful for even the slightest glimmer.

Just then a man came and touched Kandar on the shoulder, and he went to the slave block. A number of Myposans swarmed around him, feeling of his muscles, examining his teeth.

The bidding for Kandar was spirited. He brought three hundred fifty kloovol—three and one half times as much as Duare; but then he was a strong, husky man; and as he was not being bid in by an agent of Tyros, the bidding was open to all.

After Kandar had been purchased, the man who had bought him touched me on the shoulder; and it was my turn to go to the block. I went with my hands bound tightly behind my back.

“Who wishes to buy this fine male slave?” he droned.

No one spoke. There was no bid. The auctioneer waited a moment, looking first at one potential bidder and then at another.

“He is very strong,” he said. “He has fine teeth. I have examined them myself. He could do a great deal of work for many years. I am sure that he is quite as intelligent as any members of the lower orders. Who wishes to buy him?”

Again there was silence. “It is too bad to destroy such a fine slave,” urged the auctioneer. Almost, he had tears in his eyes. And that was understandable, since he received a commission on every slave sold, and every unsold slave was a blot on his escutcheon.

Suddenly he got quite angry. “Why did you touch him?” he almost screamed at the man who had laid a hand on my shoulder.

“I didn’t touch him for purchase,” snapped the fellow; “I only wanted to see if his flesh was firm—just a matter of curiosity.”

“Well, you had no business to do it. Now you will have to bid on him. You know the law of the slave market.”

“Oh, all right,” said the fellow. “I don’t want him, but I’ll pay ten kloovol for him.”

“Anybody else crave this fine male slave?” inquired the auctioneer.

It seemed that no one did. “Very well,” he said, “this fine male slave has been sold to the agent of Kron for ten kloovol. Take him away!”

So I had been sold for five dollars and ninety cents! That was certainly a blow to my ego. It is a good thing that I have a sense of the ridiculous.

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