As we approached the North Polar region, it was necessary to issue the warm fur clothing which the Dusar carried in her stores—the white fur of Apts for the warriors, and the black and yellow striped fur of orluks for the three officers; and to issue additional sleeping furs to all.
I was quite restless that night with a perfectly baseless premonition of impending disaster, and about the 9th zode (1:12 A.M. E.T.) I arose and went on deck. Fo-nar was at the wheel, for as yet I didn’t know any of the common warriors of the crew well enough to trust them with this important duty.
There was a group of men amidships, whispering among themselves. As they were not members of the watch, they had no business there at that time of night; and I was walking toward them to order them below, when I saw three men scuffling farther aft. This infraction of discipline requiring more immediate attention than the gathering on the deck, I walked quickly toward the three men, arriving just as two of them were about to hurl the third over the rail.
I seized the two by their collars and dragged them back; they dropped their victim and turned on me; but when they recognized me, they hesitated.
“The Panar was falling overboard,” said one of the men, rather impudently.
Sure enough, the third man was Gor-don, the Panar. He had had a mighty close call. “Go below, to my cabin,” I told him; “I will talk with you there later.”
“He won’t talk too much, if he knows what’s good for him,” one of the men who had tried to throw him overboard shouted after him as he walked away.
“What is the meaning of this?” I demanded of the two men, whom I recognized as assassins.
“It means that we don’t want any Panars aboard this ship,” replied one.
“Go to your quarters,” I ordered; “I’ll attend to you later.” It was my intention to immediately have them put in irons.
They hesitated; one of them moved closer to me. There is only one way to handle a situation like that—be first. I swung a right to the fellow’s chin, and as he went down I whipped out my sword and faced them.
“I’ll run you both through if you lay a hand on a weapon,” I told them, and they knew that I meant it. I made them stand against the rail then, with their backs toward me, and disarmed them. “Now go below,” I said.
As they walked away, I saw the men in the group amid. ships watching us, and as I approached them they moved away and went below before I could order them to do so. I went forward and told Fo-nar of what had happened, cautioning him to be constantly on the lookout for trouble.
“I am going below to talk to Panar,” I said; “I have an idea that there was more to this than just the wish to throw him overboard; then I’ll have a talk with some of the men. I’m going to rouse Tan Hadron first and instruct him to have those two assassins put in irons at once. I’ll be back on deck shortly; the three of us will have to keep a close watch from now on. Those men weren’t on deck at this hour in the night just to get fresh air.”
I went below then and awakened Tan Hadron, telling him what had occurred on deck and ordering him to take a detail of men and put the two assassins in irons; after that, I went to my cabin. Gor-don arose from a bench and saluted as I entered.
“May I thank you, sir,” he said, “for saving my life.”
“Was it because you are a Panar that they were going to throw you overboard?” I asked.
“No, sir, it was not,” he replied. “The men are planning to take over the ship—they are afraid to go to Pankor—and they tried to get me to join with them, as none of them can navigate a ship and I can; they intended killing you and the two padwars. I refused to join them, and tried to dissaude them; then they became afraid that I would report their plans to you, as I intended doing; so they were going to throw me overboard. You saved my life, sir, when you took me off that burning ship; and I am glad to offer it in the defense of yours—and you’re going to need all the defense you can get; the men are determined to take over the ship, though they are divided on the question of killing you.”
“They seemed very contented to serve under me immediately after our engagement with your three ships,” I said; “I wonder what could have changed them.”
“Fear of Hin Abtol as the ship drew nearer to Pankor,” replied Gor-don; “they are terrified at the thought that they might be frozen in there again for years.”
“Pankor must be a terrible place,” I said.
“For them, it would be,” he replied.
I saw to it that he was armed, and then I told him to follow me on deck. There would be at least four of us, and I hoped that some of the crew might be loyal.
Tan Hadron of Hastor and I could give a good account of ourselves; as to Fo-nar and Gor-don, I did not know.
“Come,” I said to the Panar, and then I opened my cabin door and stepped into the arms of a dozen men, waiting there, who fell upon me and bore me to the deck before I could strike a blow in defense; they disarmed both the Panar and me and bound our hands behind our backs. It was all done very expeditiously and quietly; the plan had been admirably worked out, and it won my approbation—anyone who can take John Carter as easily as that deserves praise.
They took us on deck, and I could not but notice that many of them still treated me with deference. Those who immediately surrounded me were all panthans. On deck, I saw that both Fo-nar and Tan Hadron were prisoners.
The men surrounded us, and discussed our fate. “Overboard with the four of them!” cried an assassin, “Don’t be a fool,” said one of the panthans; “we can’t navigate the ship without at least one of them.”
“Keep one of them, then; and throw the others over the rail—over with the dwar first!”
“No!” said another panthan; “he is a great fighting man, a good commander who led us to victory; I will fight before I will see him killed.”
“And I!” shouted several others in unison.
“What do you want to do with them, then?” demanded still another assassin. “Do you want to take them along so that we’ll all have our heads lopped off at the first city we stop at where they can report us to the authorities?”
“Keep two to pilot the ship,” said a man who had not spoken before; “and ground the other two, if you don’t want to kill them.”
Several of the assassins were still for killing us; but the others prevailed, and they had Tan Hadron bring the Dusar to ground. Here, as they put us off the ship, Gor-don and I, they gave us back our weapons over the protest of several of the assassins.
As I stood there on the snow and ice of the Arctic and saw the Dusar rise in the air and head toward the south, I thought that it might have been kinder had they killed us.