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Foreword — Llana of Gathol by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Lanikai is a district, a beach, a Post Office, and a grocery store. It lies on the windward shore of the Island of Oahu. It is a long way from Mars. Its waters are blue and beautiful and calm inside its coral reef, and the trade wind sighing through the fronds of its coconut palms at night might be the murmuring voices of the ghosts of the kings and chieftains who fished in its still waters long before the sea captains brought strange diseases or the missionaries brought mother-hubbards.

Thoughts of the past, mere vague imaginings, were passing idly through my mind one night that I could not sleep and was sitting on the lanai watching the white maned chargers of the sea racing shoreward beneath the floodlight of the Moon. I saw the giant kings of old Hawaii and their mighty chiefs clothed in feather cape and helmet. Kamehameha came, the great conqueror, towering above them all. Down from the Nuuanu Pali he came in great strides, stepping over cane fields and houses. The hem of his feather cape caught on the spire of a church, toppling it to the ground. He stepped on low, soft ground; and when he lifted his foot, the water of a slough rushed into his footprint, and there was a lake.

I was much interested in the coming of Kamehameha the King, for I had always admired him; though I had never expected to see him, he having been dead a matter of a hundred years or so and his bones buried in a holy, secret place that no man knows. However, I was not at all surprised to see him. What surprised me was that I was not surprised. I distinctly recall this reaction. I also recall that I hoped he would see me and not step on me.

While I was thinking these thoughts, Kamehameha stopped in front of me and looked down at me. “Well, well!” he said; “asleep on a beautiful night like this! I am surprised.”

I blinked my eyes hard and looked again. There before me stood indeed a warrior strangely garbed, but it was not King Kamehameha. Under the moonlight one’s eyes sometimes play strange tricks on one. I blinked mine again, but the warrior did not vanish. Then I knew!

Leaping to my feet, I extended my hand. “John Carter!” I exclaimed.

“Let’s see,” he said; “where was it we met last—the headwaters of the Little Colorado or Tarzana?”

“The headwaters of the Little Colorado in Arizona, I think,” I said. “That was a long time ago. I never expected to see you again.”

“No, I never expected to return.”

“Why have you? It must be something important.”

“Nothing of Cosmic importance,” he said, smiling; “but important to me, nevertheless. You see, I wanted to see you.”

“I appreciate that,” I said.

“You see, you are the last of my Earthly kin whom I know personally. Every once in a while I feel an urge to see you and visit with you, and at long intervals I am able to satisfy that urge—as now. After you are dead, and it will not be long now, I shall have no Earthly ties—no reason to return to the scenes of my former life.”

“There are my children.” I reminded him. “They are your blood kin.”

“Yes,” he said, “I know, but they might be afraid of me. After all, I might be considered something of a ghost by Earth men.”

“Not by my children,” I assured him. “They know you quite as well as I. After I am gone, see them occasionally.”

He nodded. “Perhaps I shall,” he half promised.

“And now,” I said, “tell me something of yourself, of Mars, of Dejah Thoris, of Carthoris and Thuvia and of Tara of Helium. Let me see! It was Gahan of Gathol that Tara of Helium wed.”

“Yes,” replied the war lord, “it was Gahan, Jed of the free city of Gathol. They have a daughter, one whose character and whose beauty are worthy of her mother and her mother’s mother—a beauty which, like that of those other two, hurled nations at each other’s throats in war. Perhaps you would like to hear the story of Llana of Gathol.”

I said that I would, and this is the story that he told me that night beneath the coconut palms of Oahu.

—Edgar Rice Burroughs

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