Angel Island by Inez Haynes Gillmore
M. W. P.
It was the morning after the shipwreck. The five men still lay
where they had slept. A long time had passed since anybody had spoken.
A long time had passed since anybody had moved. Indeed, it, looked
almost as if they would never speak or move again. So bruised and
bloodless of skin were they, so bleak and sharp of feature, so stark
and hollow of eye, so rigid and moveless of limb that they might have
been corpses. Mentally, too, they were almost moribund. They stared
vacantly, straight out to sea. They stared with the unwinking
fixedness of those whose gaze is caught in hypnotic trance.
It was Frank Merrill who broke the silence finally. Merrill still
looked like a man of marble and his voice still kept its unnatural
tone, level, monotonous, metallic. "If I could only forget the scream
that Norton kid gave when he saw the big wave coming. It rings in my
head. And the way his mother pressed his head down on her breast—oh,
His listeners knew that he was going to say this. They knew the
very words in which he would put it. All through the night-watches he
had said the same thing at intervals. The effect always was of a
red-hot wire drawn down the frayed ends of their nerves. But again one
by one they themselves fell into line.
"It was that old woman I remember," said Honey Smith. There were
bruises, mottled blue and black, all over Honey's body. There was a
falsetto whistling to Honey's voice. "That Irish granny! She didn't
say a word. Her mouth just opened until her jaw fell. Then the wave
struck!" He paused. He tried to control the falsetto whistling. But it
got away from him. "God, I bet she was dead before it touched her!"
"That was the awful thing about it," Pete Murphy groaned. It was as
inevitable now as an antiphonal chorus. Pete's little scarred,
scratched, bleeding body rocked back and forth." The women and
children! But it all came so quick. I was close beside 'the
Newlyweds.' She put her arms around his neck and said, 'Your face'll
be the last I'll look on in this life, dearest! 'And she stayed there
looking into his eyes. It was the last face she saw all right." Pete
stopped and his brow blackened. " While she was sick in her stateroom,
he'd been looking into a good many faces besides hers, the—"
"I don't seem to remember anything definite about it," Billy
Fairfax said. It was strange to hear that beating pulse of horror in
Billy's mild tones and to see that look of terror frozen on his mild
face. "I had the same feeling that I've had in nightmares lots of
times—that it was horrible—and—I didn't think I could stand it
another moment— but—of course it would soon end—like all
nightmares and I'd wake up."
Without reason, they fell again into silence.
They had passed through two distinct psychological changes since
the sea spewed them up. When consciousness returned, they gathered
into a little terror-stricken, gibbering group. At first they babbled.
At first inarticulate, confused, they dripped strings of mere words;
expletives, exclamations, detached phrases, broken clauses, sentences
that started with subjects and trailed, unpredicated, to stupid
silence; sentences beginning subjectless and hobbling to futile
conclusion. It was as though mentally they slavered. But every phrase,
however confused and inept, voiced their panic, voiced the long strain
of their fearful buffeting and their terrific final struggle. And
every clause, whether sentimental, sacrilegious, or profane, breathed
their wonder, their pathetic, poignant, horrified wonder, that such
things could be. All this was intensified by the anarchy of sea and
air and sky, by the incessant explosion of the waves, by the wind
which seemed to sweep from end to end of a liquefying universe, by a
downpour which threatened to beat their sodden bodies to pulp, by all
the connotation of terror that lay in the darkness and in their
unguarded condition on a barbarous, semi-tropical coast.
Then came the long, log-like stupor of their exhaustion.
With the day, vocabulary, grammar, logic returned. They still
iterated and reiterated their experiences, but with a coherence which
gradually grew to consistence. In between, however, came sudden,
sinister attacks of dumbness.
"I remember wondering," Billy Fairfax broke their last silence
suddenly, "what would become of the ship's cat."
This was typical of the astonishing fatuity which marked their
comments. Billy Fairfax had made the remark about the ship's cat a
dozen times. And a dozen times, it had elicited from the others a
clamor of similar chatter, of insignificant haphazard detail which
began anywhere and ended nowhere.
But this time it brought no comment. Perhaps it served to stir
faintly an atrophied analytic sense. No one of them had yet lost the
shudder and the thrill which lay in his own narrative. But the
experiences of the others had begun to bore and irritate.
There came after this one remark another half-hour of stupid and
The storm, which had seemed to worry the whole universe in its
grip, had died finally but it had died hard. On a quieted earth, the
sea alone showed signs of revolution. The waves, monstrous, towering,
swollen, were still marching on to the beach with a machine-like
regularity that was swift and ponderous at the same time. One on one,
another on another, they came, not an instant between. When they
crested, involuntarily the five men braced themselves as for a shock.
When they crashed, involuntarily the five men started as if a bomb had
struck. Beyond the wave-line, under a cover of foam, the jaded sea lay
feebly palpitant like an old man asleep. Not far off, sucked close to
a ragged reef, stretched the black bulk that had once been the Brian
Boru. Continually it leaped out of the water, threw itself like a live
creature, breast-forward on the rock, clawed furiously at it,
retreated a little more shattered, settled back in the trough, brooded
an instant, then with the courage of the tortured and the strength of
the dying, reared and sprang at the rock again.
Up and down the beach stretched an unbroken line of wreckage. Here
and there, things, humanly shaped, lay prone or supine or twisted into
crazy attitudes. Some had been flung far up the slope beyond the
water-line. Others, rolling back in the torrent of the tide, engaged
in a ceaseless, grotesque frolic with the foamy waters. Out of a mass
of wood caught between rocks and rising shoulder-high above it, a
woman's head, livid, rigid, stared with a fixed gaze out of her dead
eyes straight at their group. Her blonde hair had already dried; it
hung in stiff, salt-clogged masses that beat wildly about her face.
Beyond something rocking between two wedged sea-chests, but concealed
by them, constantly kicked a sodden foot into the air. Straight ahead,
the naked body of a child flashed to the crest of each wave.
All this destruction ran from north to south between two reefs of
black rock. It edged a broad bow-shaped expanse of sand, snowy,
powdery, hummocky, netted with wefts of black seaweed that had dried
to a rattling stiffness. To the east, this silvery crescent merged
finally with a furry band of vegetation which screened the whole
foreground of the island.
The day was perfect and the scene beautiful. They had watched the
sun come up over the trees at their back. And it was as if they had
seen a sunrise for the first time in their life. To them, it was
neither beautiful nor familiar; it was sinister and strange. A chill,
that was not of the dawn but of death itself, lay over everything. The
morning wind was the breath of the tomb, the smells that came to them
from the island bore the taint of mortality, the very sunshine seemed
icy. They suffered—the five survivors of the night's tragedy—with
a scarifying sense of disillusion with Nature. It was as though a
beautiful, tender, and fondly loved mother had turned murderously on
her children, had wounded them nearly to death, had then tried to woo
them to her breast again. The loveliness of her, the mindless,
heartless, soulless loveliness, as of a maniac tamed, mocked at their
agonies, mocked with her gentle indifference, mocked with her
self-satisfied placidity, mocked with her serenity and her peace. For
them she was dead—dead like those whom we no longer trust.
The sun was racing up a sky smooth and clear as gray glass. It
dropped on the torn green sea a shimmer that was almost dazzling; but
ere was something incongruous about that—as though Nature had
covered her victim with a spangled scarf. It brought out millions of
sparkles in the white sand; and there seemed something calculating
about that—as though she were bribing them with jewels to forget.
"Say, let's cut out this business of going, over and over it," said
Ralph Addington with a sudden burst of irritability. "I guess I could
give up the ship's cat in exchange for a girl or two." Addington's
face was livid; a muscular contraction kept pulling his lips away from
his white teeth; he had the look of a man who grins satanically at
By a titanic mental effort, the others connected this explosion
with Billy Fairfax's last remark. It was the first expression of an
emotion so small as ill-humor. It was, moreover, the first excursion
out of the beaten path of their egotisms. It cleared the atmosphere a
little of that murky cloud of horror which blurred the sunlight. Three
of the other four men—Honey Smith, Frank Merrill, Pete Murphy—
actually turned and looked at Ralph Addington. Perhaps that movement
served to break the hideous, hypnotic spell of the sea.
"Right-o!" Honey Smith agreed weakly. It was audible in his voice,
the effort to talk sanely of sane things, and in the slang of every
day. "Addington's on. Let's can it! Here we are and here we're likely
to stay for a few days. In the meantime we've got to live. How are we
going to pull it off?"
Everybody considered his brief harangue; for an instant, it looked
as though this consideration was taking them all back into aimless
meditation. Then, "That's right," Billy Fairfax took it up heroically.
"Say, Merrill," he added in almost a conversational tone, "what are
our chances? I mean how soon do we get off?"
This was the first question anybody had asked. It added its
infinitesimal weight to the wave of normality which was settling over
them all. Everybody visibly concentrated, listening for the answer.
It came after an instant, although Frank Merrill palpably pulled
himself together to attack the problem. "I was talking that matter
over with Miner just yesterday," he said. "Miner said God, I wonder
where he is now—and a dependent blind mother in Nebraska."
"Cut that out," Honey Smith ordered crisply.
"We—we—were trying to figure our chances in case of a wreck,"
Frank Merrill continued slowly. "You see, we're out of the beaten path
- way out. Those days of drifting cooked our goose. You can never
tell, of course, what will happen in the Pacific where there are so
many tramp craft. On the other hand—" he paused and hesitated. It
was evident, now that he had something to expound, that Merrill had
himself almost under command, that his hesitation arose from another
cause. "Well, we're all men. I guess it's up to me to tell you the
truth. The sooner you all know the worst, the sooner you'll pull
yourselves together. I shouldn't be surprised if we didn't see a ship
for several weeks— perhaps months."
Another of their mute intervals fell upon them. Dozens of waves
flashed and crashed their way up the beach; but now they trailed an
iridescent network of foam over the lilac-gray sand. The sun raced
high; but now it poured a flood of light on the green-gray water. The
air grew bright and brighter. The earth grew warm and warmer. Blue
came into the sky, deepened—and the sea reflected it, Suddenly the
world was one huge glittering bubble, half of which was the brilliant
azure sky and half the burnished azure sea. None of the five men
looked at the sea and sky now. The other four were considering Frank
Merrill's words and he was considering the other four.
"Lord, God!" Ralph Addington exclaimed suddenly. "Think of being in
a place like this six months or a year without a woman round! Why,
we'll be savages at the end of three months." He snarled his words. It
was as if a new aspect of the situation—an aspect more crucially
alarming than any other—had just struck him.
"Yes," said Frank Merrill. And for a moment, so much had he
recovered himself, he reverted to his academic type. "Aside from the
regret and horror and shame that I feel to have survived when every
woman drowned, I confess to that feeling too. Women keep up the
standards of life. It would have made a great difference with us if
there were only one or two women here."
"If there'd been five, you mean," Ralph Addington amended. A
feeble, white-toothed smile gleamed out of his dark beard. He, too,
had pulled himself together; this smile was not muscular contraction.
"One or two, and the fat would be in the fire."
Nobody added anything to this. But now the other three considered
Ralph Addington's words with the same effort towards concentration
that they had brought to Frank Merrill's. Somehow his smile—that
flashing smile which showed so many teeth against a background of dark
beard—pointed his words uncomfortably.
Of them all, Ralph Addington was perhaps, the least popular. This
was strange; for he was a thorough sport, a man of a wide experience.
He was salesman for a business concern that manufactured a white
shoe-polish, and he made the rounds of the Oriental countries every
year. He was a careful and intelligent observer both of men and
things. He was widely if not deeply read. He was an interesting
talker. He could, for or instance, meet each of the other four on some
point of mental contact. A superficial knowledge of sociology and a
practical experience with many races brought him and Frank Merrill
into frequent discussion. His interest in all athletic sports and his
firsthand information in regard to them made common ground between him
and Billy Fairfax. With Honey Smith, he talked business, adventure,
and romance; with Pete Murphy, German opera, French literature,
American muckraking, and Japanese art. The flaw which made him alien
was not of personality but of character.
He presented the anomaly of a man scrupulously honorable in regard
to his own sex, and absolutely codeless in regard to the other. He was
what modern nomenclature calls a "contemporaneous varietist." He was,
in brief, an offensive type of libertine. Woman, first and foremost,
was his game. Every woman attracted him. No woman held him. Any new
woman, however plain, immediately eclipsed her predecessor, however
beautiful. The fact that amorous interests took precedence over all
others was quite enough to make him vaguely unpopular with men. But as
in addition, he was a physical type which many women find interesting,
it is likely that an instinctive sex-jealousy, unformulated but
inevitable, biassed their judgment. He was a typical business man; but
in appearance he represented the conventional idea of an artist. Tall,
muscular, graceful, hair thick and a little wavy, beard pointed and
golden-brown, eyes liquid and long-lashed, women called him
"interesting." There was, moreover, always a slight touch of the
picturesque in his clothes; he was master of the small amatory ruses
which delight flirtatious women.
In brief, men were always divided in their own minds in regard to
Ralph Addington. They knew that, constantly, he broke every canon of
that mysterious flexible, half-developed code which governs their
relations with women. But no law of that code compelled them to punish
him for ungenerous treatment of somebody's else wife or sister. Had he
been dishonorable with them, had he once borrowed without paying, had
he once cheated at cards, they would have ostracized him forever. He
had done none of these things, of course.
"By jiminy!" exclaimed Honey Smith, "how I hate the unfamiliar air
of everything. I'd like to put my lamps on something I know. A ranch
and a round-up would look pretty good to me at this moment. Or a New
England farmhouse with the cows coming home. That would set me up
quicker than a highball."
"The University campus would seem like heaven to me," Frank Merrill
confessed drearily, "and I'd got so the very sight of it nearly drove
"The Great White Way for mine," said Pete Murphy, "at night—all
the corset and whisky signs flashing, the streets jammed with
benzine-buggies, the sidewalks crowded with boobs, and every lobster
palace filled to the roof with chorus girls."
"Say," Billy Fairfax burst out suddenly; and for the first time
since the shipwreck a voice among them carried a clear business-like
note of curiosity. "You fellows troubled with your eyes? As sure as
shooting, I'm seeing things. Out in the west there—black spots—any
of the rest of you get them?"
One or two of the group glanced cursorily backwards. A pair of
perfunctory "Noes!" greeted Billy's inquiry.
"Well, I'm daffy then," Billy decided. He went on with a sudden
abnormal volubility. "Queer thing about it is I've been seeing them
the whole morning. I've just got back to that Point where I realized
there was something wrong. I've always had a remarkably far sight." He
rushed on at the same speed; but now he had the air of one who is
trying to reconcile puzzling phenomena with natural laws. "And it
seems as if— but there are no birds large enough—wish it would
stop, though. Perhaps you get a different angle of vision down in
these parts. Did any of you ever hear of that Russian peasant who
could see the four moons of Jupiter without a glass? The astronomers
tell about him."
Nobody answered his question. But it seemed suddenly to bring them
back to the normal.
"See here, boys," Frank Merrill said, an unexpected note of
authority in his voice, "we can't sit here all the morning like this.
We ought to rig up a signal, in case any ship -. Moreover, we've got
to get together and save as much as we can. We'll be hungry in a
little while. We can't lie down on that job too long."
Honey Smith jumped to his feet. "Well, Lord knows, I want to get
busy. I don't want to do any more thinking, thank you. How I ache!
Every muscle in my body is raising particular Hades at this moment."
The others pulled themselves up, groaned, stretched, eased
protesting muscles. Suddenly Honey Smith pounded Billy Fairfax on the
shoulder, "You're it, Billy," he said and ran down the beach. In
another instant they were all playing tag. This changed after five
minutes to baseball with a lemon for a ball and a chair-leg for a bat.
A mood of wild exhilaration caught them. The inevitable psychological
reaction had set in. Their morbid horror of Nature vanished in its
vitalizing flood like a cobweb in a flame. Never had sea or sky or
earth seemed more lovely, more lusciously, voluptuously lovely. The
sparkle of the salt wind tingled through their bodies like an electric
current. The warmth in the air lapped them like a hot bath.
Joy-in-life flared up in them to such a height that it kept them
running and leaping meaninglessly. They shouted wild phrases to each
other. They burst into song. At times they yelled scraps of verse.
"We'll come across something to eat soon," said Frank Merrill,
breathing hard. "Then we'll be all right."
"I feel—better—for that run—already," panted Billy Fairfax.
"Haven't seen a black spot for five minutes."
Nobody paid any attention to him, and in a few minutes he was
paying no attention to himself. Their expedition was offering too many
shocks of horror and pathos. Fortunately the change in their mood
held. It was, indeed, as unnatural as their torpor, and must
inevitably bring its own reaction. But after each of these tragic
encounters, they recovered buoyancy, recovered it with a resiliency
that had something almost light-headed about it.
"We won't touch any of them now," Frank Merrill ordered
peremptorily. "We can attend to them later. They'll keep coming back.
What we've got to do is to think of the future. Get everything out of
the water that looks useful—immediately useful," he corrected
himself. "Don't bother about anything above high-water mark—that's
there to stay. And work like hell every one of you!"
Work they did for three hours, worked with a kind of frenzied
delight in action and pricked on by a ravenous hunger. In and out of
the combers they dashed, playing a desperate game of chance with
Death. Helter-skelter, hit-or-miss, in a blind orgy of rescue, at
first they pulled out everything they could reach. Repeatedly, Frank
Merrill stopped to lecture them on the foolish risks they were taking,
on the stupidity of such a waste of energy. "Save what we need!' he
iterated and reiterated, bellowing to make himself heard. "What we can
use now— canned stuff, tools, clothes! This lumber'll come back on
the next tide."
He seemed to keep a supervising eye on all of them; for his voice,
shouting individual orders, boomed constantly over the crash of the
waves. Realizing finally that he was the man of the hour, the others
ended by following his instructions blindly.
Merrill, himself, was no shirk. His strength seemed prodigious.
When any of the others attempted to land something too big to handle
alone, he was always near to help; and yet, unaided, he accomplished
twice as much as the busiest.
Frank Merrill, professor of a small university in the Middle West,
was the scholar of the group, a sociologist traveling in the Orient to
study conditions. He was not especially popular with his companions,
although they admired him and deferred to him. On the other hand, he
was not unpopular; it was more that they stood a little in awe of him.
On his mental side, he was a typical academic product. Normally his
conversation, both in subject-matter and in verbal form, bore towards
pedantry. It was one curious effect of this crisis that he had
reverted to the crisp Anglo-Saxon of his farm-nurtured youth.
On his moral side, he was a typical reformer, a man of impeccable
private character, solitary, a little austere. He had never married;
he had never sought the company of women, and in fact he knew nothing
about them. Women had had no more bearing on his life than the fourth
On his physical side he was a wonder.
Six feet four in height, two hundred and fifty pounds in weight, he
looked the viking. He had carried to the verge of middle age the
habits of an athletic youth. It was said that half his popularity in
his university world was due to the respect he commanded from the
students because of his extraordinary feats in walking and lifting. He
was impressive, almost handsome. For what of his face his ragged,
rusty beard left uncovered was regularly if coldly featured. He was
ascetic in type. Moreover, the look of the born disciplinarian lay on
him. His blue eyes carried a glacial gleam. Even through his thick
mustache, the lines of his mouth showed iron.
After a while, Honey Smith came across a water-tight tin of
matches. "Great Scott, fellows!" he exclaimed. "I'm hungry enough to
drop. Let's knock off for a while and feed our faces. How about mock
turtle, chicken livers, and red-headed duck?"
They built a fire, opened cans of soup and vegetables.
"The Waldorf has nothing on that," Pete Murphy said when they
"Say, remember to look for smokes, all of you," Ralph Addington
admonished them suddenly.
"You betchu!" groaned Honey Smith, and his look became lugubrious.
But his instinct to turn to the humorous side of things immediately
crumpled his brown face into its attractive smile. "Say, aren't we
going to be the immaculate little lads? I can't think of a single bad
habit we can acquire in this place. No smokes, no drinks, few if any
eats—and not a chorister in sight. Let's organize the Robinson
Crusoe Purity League, Parlor Number One."
"Oh, gee!" Pete Murphy burst out. "It's just struck me. The
Wilmington 'Blue,' is lost forever—it must have gone down with
Nobody spoke. It was an interesting indication of how their sense
of values had already shifted that the loss to the world of one of its
biggest diamonds seemed the least of their minor disasters.
"Perhaps that's what hoodooed us," Pete went on. "You know they say
the Wilmington 'Blue' brought bad luck to everybody who owned it.
Anyway, battle, murder, adultery, rape, rapine, and sudden death have
followed it right along the line down through history. Oh, it's been a
busy cake of ice—take it from muh! Hope the mermaids fight shy of
"The Wilmington 'Blue' isn't alone in that," Ralph Addington said.
"All big diamonds have raised hell. You ought to hear some of the
stories they tell in India about the rajahs' treasures. Some of those
briolettes —you listen long enough and you come to the conclusion
that the sooner all the big stones are cut up, the better."
"I bet this one isn't gone," said Pete. "Anybody take me? That's
the contrariety of the beasts—they won't stay lost. We'll find that
stone yet—where among our loot. The first thing we know, we'll be
all knifing each other to get it."
"Time's up," called Frank Merrill. "Sorry to drive you, but we've
got to keep at it as long as the light lasts. After to-day, though, we
need work only at high water. Between times, we can explore the island
- " He spoke as if he were wheedling a group of boys with the promise
"Select a site for our capital city"—Honey Smith helped him out
facetiously—"lay out streets—begin to excavate for the church,
town-hall, schoolhouse, and library."
"The first thing to do now," Frank Merrill went on, as usual,
ignoring all facetiousness, "is to put up a signal."
Under his direction, they nailed a pair of sheets, one at the
southern, the other at the northern reef, to saplings which they
stripped of branches. Then they went back to the struggle for salvage.
The fascination of work—and of such novel work—still held them.
They labored the rest of the morning, lay off for a brief lunch, went
at it again in the afternoon, paused for dinner, and worked far into
the evening. Once they stopped long enough to build a huge signal fire
on the each. When they turned in, not one of them but nursed torn and
blistered hands. Not one of them but fell asleep the instant he lay
They slept until long after sunrise.
It was Pete Murphy who waked them. "Say, who was it, yesterday,
talked about seeing black spots? I'm hanged if I'm not hipped, too.
When I woke just before sunrise, there were black things off there in
the west. Of course I was almost dead to the world but—"
"Like great birds?" Billy Fairfax asked with interest.
"Bats from your belfry," commented Ralph Addington. Because of his
constant globe-trotting, Addington's slang was often a half-decade
behind the times.
"Too much sunlight," Frank Merrill explained. "Lucky thing, we
don't any of us have to wear glasses. We'd certainly be up against it
in this double glare. Sand and sun both, you see! And you can thank
whatever instinct that's kept you all in training. This shipwreck is
the most perfect case I've ever seen of the survival of the fittest."
And in fact, they were all, except for Pete Murphy, big men, and
all, even he, active, strong-muscled, and in the pink of condition.
The huge tide had not entirely subsided, but there was a
perceptible diminution in the height of the waves. Up beyond the
water-line lay a fresh installment of jetsam. But, as before, they
labored only to save the flotsam. They worked all the morning.
In the afternoon, they dug a huge trench. Frank Merrill presiding,
they buried the dead with appropriate ceremony.
"Thank God, that's done," Ralph Addington said with a shudder. "I
hate death and everything to do with it."
"Yes, we'll all be more normal now they're gone," Frank Merrill
added. "And the sooner everything that reminds us of them is gone the
"Say," Honey Smith burst out the next morning. "Funny thing
happened to me in the middle the night. I woke out of a sound sleep—
don't know why —woke with a start as if somebody'd shaken me—felt
something brush me so close—well, it touched me. I was so dead that
I had to work like the merry Hades to open my eyes—seemed as if it
was a full minute before I could lift my eyelids. When I could make
things out—damned if there wasn't a bird—a big bird—the biggest
bird I ever saw in my life—three times as big as any eagle—flying
over the water."
Nothing could better have indicated Honey's mental turmoil than the
fact that he talked in broken phrases rather than in his usual clear,
swift-footed curt sentences.
Nobody noticed this. Nobody offered comment. Nobody seemed
surprised. In fact, all the psychological areas which explode in
surprise and wonder were temporarily deadened.
"As sure as I live," Honey continued indignantly, "that bird's
wings must have extended twenty feet above its head."
"Oh, get out!" said Ralph Addington perfunctorily.
"As sure as I'm sitting here," Honey went on earnestly. "I heard a
woman's laugh. Any of you others get it?"
The sense of humor, it seemed, was not extinct. Honey's companions
burst into roars of laughter. For the rest of the morning, they joked
Honey about his hallucination. And Honey, who always responded in kind
to any badinage, received this in silence. In fact, wherever he could,
a little pointedly, he changed the subject.
Honey Smith was the type of man whom everybody jokes, partly
because he received it with such good humor, partly because he turned
it back with so ready and so charming a wit. Also it gave his fellow
creatures a gratifying sense of equality to pick humorous flaws in one
so manifestly a darling of the gods.
Honey Smith possessed not a trace of genius, not a suggestion of
what is popularly termed "temperament." He had no mind to speak of,
and not more than the usual amount of character. In fact, but for one
thing, he was an average person. That one thing was personality—and
personality he possessed to an extraordinary degree. Indeed, there
seemed to be something mysteriously compelling about this personality
of Honey's. The whole world of creatures felt its charm. Dumb beasts
fawned on him. Children clung to him. Old people lingered near as
though they could light dead fires in the blaze of his radiant youth.
Men hob-nobbed with him; his charm brushed off on to the dryest and
dullest so that, temporarily, they too bloomed with personality. As
for women—His appearance among them was the signal for a noiseless
social cataclysm. They slipped and slid in his direction as helplessly
as if an inclined plane had opened under their feet. They fluttered in
circles about him like birds around a light. If he had been allowed to
follow the pull of his inclination, they would have held a subsidiary
place in his existence. For he was practical, balanced, sane. He had,
moreover, the tendency towards temperance of the born athlete. Besides
all this, his main interests were man-interests. But women would not
let him alone. He had but to look and the thing was done. Wreaths hung
on every balcony for Honey Smith and, always at his approach, the door
of the harem swung wide. He was a little lazy, almost discourteously
uninterested in his attitude towards, the individual female; for he
had never had to exert himself.
It is likely that all this personal popularity would have been the
result of that trick of personality. But many good fairies had been
summoned to Honey's christening; he had good looks besides. He was
really tall, although his broad shoulders seemed to reduce him to
medium height. Brown-skinned, brown-eyed, brown-haired, his skin was
as smooth as satin, his eyes as clear as crystal, his hair as thick as
fur. His expression had tremendous sparkle. But his main physical
charm was a smile which crumpled his brown face into an engaging
irregularity of contour and lighted it with an expression brilliant
with mirth and friendliness.
He was a true soldier of fortune. In the ten years which his
business career covered be had engaged in a score of business
ventures. He had lost two fortunes. Born in the West, educated in the
East, he had flashed from coast to coast so often that he himself
would have found it hard to say where he belonged.
He was the admiration and the wonder and the paragon and the
criterion of his friend Billy Fairfax, who had trailed his meteoric
course through college and who, when the Brian Boru went down, was
accompanying him on his most recent adventure—a globe-trotting trip
in the interests of a moving-picture company. Socially they made an
excellent team. For Billy contributed money, birth, breeding, and
position to augment Honey's initiative, enterprise, audacity, and
charm. Billy Fairfax offered other contrasts quite as striking. On his
physical side, he was shapelessly strong and hopelessly ugly, a big,
shock-headed blond. On his personal side "mere mutt-man" was the way
one girl put it, "too much of a damned gentleman" Honey Smith said to
Billy Fairfax was not, however, without charm of a certain shy,
evasive, slow-going kind; and he was not without his own distinction.
His huge fortune had permitted him to cultivate many expensive sports
and sporting tastes. His studs and kennels and strings of polo ponies
were famous. He was a polo-player well above the average and an
aviator not far below it.
Pete Murphy, the fifth of the group, was the delight of them all.
The carriage of a bantam rooster, the courage of a lion, more brain
than he could stagger under; a disposition fiery, mercurial, sanguine,
witty; he was made, according to Billy Fairfax's dictum, of "wire and
brass tacks," and he possessed what Honey Smith (who himself had no
mean gift in that direction) called "the gift of gab." He lived by
writing magazine articles. Also he wrote fiction, verse, and drama.
Also he was a painter. Also he was a musician. In short, he was an
Artistically, he had all the perception of the Celt plus the
acquired sapience of the painter's training. If he could have existed
in a universe which consisted entirely of sound and color, a universe
inhabited only by disembodied spirits, he would have been its ablest
citizen; but he was utterly disqualified to live in a human world. He
was absolutely incapable of judging people. His tendency was to
underestimate men and to overestimate women. His life bore all the
scars inevitable to such an instinct. Women, in particular, had played
ducks and drakes with his career. Weakly chivalrous, mindlessly
gallant, he lacked the faculty of learning by experience—especially
where the other sex were concerned. "Predestined to be stung!" was,
his first wife's laconic comment on her ex-husband. She, for instance,
was undoubtedly the blameworthy one in their marital failure, but she
had managed to extract a ruinous alimony from him. Twice married and
twice divorced, he was traveled through the Orient to write a series
of muck raking articles and, incidentally if possible, to forget his
last unhappy matrimonial venture.
Physically, Pete was the black type of Celt. The wild thatch of his
scrubbing-brush hair shone purple in the light. Scrape his face as he
would, the purple shadow of his beard seemed ingrained in his white
white skin. Black-browed and black-lashed, he had the luminous
blue-gray-green eyes of the colleen. There was a curious untamable
quality in his look that was the mixture of two mad strains, the
aloofness of the Celt and the aloofness of the genius.
Three weeks passed. The clear, warm-cool, lucid, sunny weather kept
up. The ocean flattened, gradually. Twice every twenty-four hours the
tide brought treasure; but it brought less and less every day.
Occasionally came a stiffened human reminder of their great disaster.
But calloused as they were now to these experiences, the men buried it
with hasty ceremony and forgot.
By this time an incongruous collection stretched in parallel lines
above the high-water mark. "Something, anything, everything—and then
some," remarked Honey Smith. Wood wreckage of all descriptions, acres
of furniture, broken, split, blistered, discolored, swollen; piles of
carpets, rugs, towels, bed-linen, stained, faded, shrunken, torn;
files of swollen mattresses, pillows, cushions, life-preservers; heaps
of table-silver and kitchen-ware tarnished and rusty; mounds of china
and glass; mountains of tinned goods, barrels boxes, books,
suit-cases, leather bags; trunks and trunks and more trunks and still
more trunks; for, mainly, the trunks had saved themselves.
Part of the time, in between tides, they tried to separate the
grain of this huge collection of lumber from the chaff; part of the
time they made exploring trips into the interior. At night they sat
about their huge fire and talked.
The island proved to be about twenty miles in length by seven in
width. It was uninhabited and there were no large animals on it. It
was Frank Merrill's theory that it was the exposed peak of a huge
extinct volcano. In the center, filling the crater, was a little
fresh-water lake. The island was heavily wooded; but in contour it
presented only diminutive contrasts of hill and valley. And except as
the semi-tropical foliage offered novelties of leaf and flower, the
beauties of unfamiliar shapes and colors, it did not seem particularly
interesting. Ralph Addington was the guide of these expeditions. From
this tree, he pointed out, the South Sea Islander manufactured the
tappa cloth, from that the poeepooee, from yonder the arva. Honey
Smith used to say that the only depressing thing about these trips was
the utter silence of the gorgeous birds which they saw on every side.
On the other hand, they extracted what comfort they could from
Merrill's and Addington's assurance that, should the ship's supply
give out, they could live comfortably enough on birds' eggs, fruit,
Sorting what Honey Smith called the "ship-duffle" was one prolonged
adventure. At first they made little progress; for all five of them
gathered over each important find, chattering like girls. Each man
followed the bent of his individual instinct for acquisitiveness.
Frank Merrill picked out books, paper, writing materials of every
sort. Ralph Addington ran to clothes. The habit of the man with whom
it is a business policy to appear well-dressed maintained itself; even
in their Eveless Eden, he presented a certain tailored smartness.
Billy Fairfax selected kitchen utensils and tools. Later, he came
across a box filled with tennis rackets, nets, and balls. The rackets'
strings had snapped and the balls were dead. He began immediately to
restring the rackets, to make new balls from twine, to lay out a
court. Like true soldiers of fortune, Honey Smith and Pete Murphy made
no special collection; they looted for mere loot's sake.
One day, in the midst of one of their raids, Honey Smith yelled a
surprised and triumphant, "By jiminy!" The others showed no signs, of
interest. Honey was an alarmist; the treasure of the moment might
prove to be a Japanese print or a corkscrew. But as nobody stirred or
spoke, he called, "The Wilmington 'Blue'!"
These words carried their inevitable magic. His companions dropped
everything; they swarmed about him.
Honey held on his palm what, in the brilliant sunlight looked like
a globe of blue fire, a fire that emitted rainbows instead of sparks.
He passed it from hand to hand. It seemed a miracle that the
fingers which touched it did not burst into flame. For a moment the
five men might have been five children.
"Well," said Pete Murphy, "according to all fiction precedent, the
rest of us ought to get together immediately, if not a little sooner,
and murder you, Honey."
"Go as far as you like," said Honey, dropping the stone into the
pocket of his flannel shirt. "Only if anybody really gets peeved about
this junk of carbon, I'll give it to him."
For a while life flowed wonderful. The men labored with a
joy-in-work at which they themselves marveled. Their out-of-doors
existence showed its effects in a condition of glowing health. Honey
Smith changed first to a brilliant red, then to a uniform coffee
brown, and last to a shining bronze which was the mixture of both
these colors. Pete Murphy grew one crop of freckles, then another and
still another until Honey offered to "excavate" his features. Ralph
Addington developed a rich, subcutaneous, golden-umber glow which made
him seem, in connection with an occasional unconventionality of
costume, more than ever like the schoolgirl's idea of an artist. Billy
Fairfax's blond hair bleached to flaxen. His complexion deepened in
tone to a permanent pink. This, in contrast with the deep clear blue
of his eyes, gave him a kind of out-of-doors comeliness. But Frank
Merrill was the surprise of them all. He not only grew handsomer, he
grew younger; a magnificent, towering, copper-colored monolith of a
man, whose gray eyes were as clear as mountain springs, whose white
teeth turned his smile to a flash of light. Constantly they patrolled
the beach, pairs of them, studying the ocean for sight of a distant
sail, selecting at intervals a new spot on which at night to start
fires, or by day to erect signals. They bubbled with spirits. They
laughed and talked without cessation. The condition which Ralph
Addington had deplored, the absence of women, made first for social
relaxation, for psychological rest.
"Lord, I never noticed before—until I got this chance to get off
and think of it—what a damned bother women are," Honey Smith said
one day. "Of all the sexes that roam the earth, as George Ade says, I
like them least. What a mess they make of your time and your work,
always requiring so much attention, always having to be waited on,
always dropping things, always so much foolish fuss and ceremony,
always asking such footless questions and never hearing you when you
answer them. Never really knowing anything or saying anything. They're
a different kind of critter, that's all there is to it; they're
amateurs at life. They're a failure as a sex and an outworn convention
anyway. Myself, I'm for sending them to the scrap-heap. Votes for
And with this, according to the divagations of their temperaments
and characters, the others strenuously concurred.
Their days, crowded to the brim with work, passed so swiftly that
they scarcely noticed their flight. Their nights, filled with a sleep
that was twin brother to Death, seemed not to exist at all.
Their evenings were lively with the most brilliant kind of
man-talk. To it, Frank Merrill brought his encyclopedic book
knowledge, his insatiable curiosity about life; Ralph Addington all
the garnered richness of his acute observation; Billy Fairfax his
acquaintance with the elect of the society or of the art world, his
quiet, deferential attitude of listener. But the events of these
conversational orgies were Honey Smith's adventures and Pete Murphy's
romances. Honey's narrative was crisp, clear, quick, straight from the
shoulder, colloquial, slangy. He dealt often in the first person and
the present tense. He told a plain tale from its simple beginning to
its simple end. But Pete—. His language had all Honey's simplicity
lined terseness and, in addition, he had the literary touch, both the
dramatist's instinct and the fictionist's insight. His stories always
ran up to a psychological climax; but this was always disguised by the
best narratory tricks. He was one of those men of whom people always
say, "if he could only write as he talks." In point of fact, he wrote
much better than he talked— but he talked better than any one else.
The unanalytic never allowed in him for the spell of the spoken word,
nor for the fiery quality of his spirit.
As time went on, their talks grew more and ore confidential.
Women's faces began to gleam here and there in narrative. They began
to indulge in long discussions of the despised sex; at times they ran
into fierce controversy. Occasionally Honey Smith re-told a story
which, from the introduction of a shadowy girl-figure, became
mysteriously more interesting and compelling. Once or twice they
nearly went over the border-line of legitimate confidence, so intimate
had their talk become —muffled as it was by the velvety, star-sown
dark and interrupted only by the unheeded thunders of the surf. They
were always pulling themselves up to debate openly whether they should
go farther, always, on consideration, turning narrative into a channel
much less confidential and much less, interesting, or as openly
plugging straight ahead, carefully disguising names and places.
After a week or two, the first fine careless rapture of their
escape from death disappeared. The lure of loot evaporated. They did
not stop their work on "the ship-duffle," but it became aimless and
undirected. Their trips into the island seemed a little purposeless.
Frank Merrill had to scourge them to patrol the beach, to keep their
signal sheets flying, their signal fires burning. The effect upon
their mental condition of this loss of animus was immediate. They
became perceptibly more serious. Their first camp—it consisted only
of five haphazard piles of bedding—satisfied superficially the
shiftless habits of their womanless group; subconsciously, however,
they all fell under the depression of its discomfort and disorder.
They bathed in the ocean regularly but they did not shave. Their
clothes grew ragged and torn, and although there were scores of trunks
packed with wearing apparel, they did not bother to change them.
Subconsciously they all responded to these irregularities by a sudden
change in spirit.
In the place of the gay talk-fests that filled their evenings, they
began to hold long pessimistic discussions about their future on the
island in case rescue were indefinitely delayed. Taciturn periods fell
upon them. Frank Merrill showed only a slight seriousness. Billy
Fairfax, however, wore a look permanently sobered. Pete Murphy became
subject at regular intervals to wild rhapsodical seizures when he
raved, almost in impromptu verse, about the beauty of sea and sky.
These were followed by periods of an intense, bitter, black, Celtic
melancholy. Ralph Addington degenerated into what Honey described as
"the human sourball." He spoke as seldom as possible and then only to
snarl. He showed a tendency to disobey the few orders that Frank
Merrill, who still held his position of leader, laid upon them. Once
or twice he grazed a quarrel with Merrill. Honey Smith developed an
abnormality equal to Ralph Addington's, but in the opposite direction.
His spirits never flagged; he brimmed with joy-in-life, vitality, and
optimism. It was as if he had some secret mental solace.
"Damn you and your sunny-side-up dope!" Ralph Addington growled at
him again and again. "Shut up, will you!"
One day Frank Merrill proposed a hike across the island. Billy
Fairfax who, at the head, had set a brisk pace for the file, suddenly
dropped back to the rear and accosted Honey Smith who had lagged
behind. Honey was skipping stones over the lake from a pocketful of
"Say, Honey," Billy began. The other four men were far ahead, but
Billy kept his voice low. Do you remember that dream you had about the
big bird—the time we joshed you so?
"Sure do I," Honey said cheerfully. "Only remember one thing,
Billy. That wasn't a dream any more than this is."
"All right," Billy exclaimed. "You don't have to show me. A funny
thing happened to me last night. I'm not telling the others. They
won't believe it and—well, my nerves are all on end. I know I'd get
mad if they began to jolly. I was sleeping like the dickens—a
sure-for-certain Rip Van Winkle—when all of a sudden—Did you ever
have a pet cat, Honey?"
"Well, I've had lots of them. I like cats. I had one once that used
to wake me up at two minutes past seven every morning as regularly as
two minutes past seven came—not an instant before, not an instant
after. He turned the trick by jumping up on the bed and looking
steadily into my face. Never touched me, you understand. Well, l waked
this morning just after sunrise with a feeling that Kilo was there
staring at me. Somebody was—" Billy paused. He swallowed rapidly and
wet his lips. "But it wasn't Kilo." Billy paused again.
"I'm listening, bo," said Honey, shying another stone.
"It was a girl looking at me," Billy said, simply as though it were
something to be expected. He paused. Then, "Get that? A girl! She was
bending over me—pretty close—I could almost touch her. I can see
her now as plainly as I see you. She was blonde. One of those
pale-gold blondes with hair like honey and features cut with a chisel.
You know the type. Some people think it's cold. It's a kind of beauty
that's always appealed to me, though." He stopped.
"Well," Honey prodded him with a kind of non-committal calm, "what
"Nothing. If you can believe me—nothing. I stared—oh, I guess I
stared for a quarter of a minute straight up into the most beautiful
pair of eyes that I ever saw in my life. I stared straight up into
them and I stared straight down into them. They were as deep as a well
and as gray as a cloud and as cold as ice. And they had lashes—" For
a moment the quiet directness of Billy's narrative was disturbed by a
whiff of inner tumult. "Whew! what eyelashes! Honey, did you ever come
across a lonely mountain lake with high reeds growing around the edge?
You know how pure and unspoiled and virginal it seems. That was her
eyes. They sort of hypnotized me. My eyes closed and—when I awoke it
was broad daylight. What do you think?"
"Well," said Honey judicially, "I know just how you feel. I could
have killed the boys for joshing me the way they did. I was sure. I
was certain I heard a woman laugh that night. And, by God, I did hear
it. Whenever I contradict myself, something rises up and tells me I
lie. But —." His radiant brown smile crumpled his brown face. "Of
course, I didn't hear it. I couldn't have heard it. And so I guess you
didn't see the peroxide you speak of. And yet if you Punch me in the
jaw, I'll know exactly how you feel." His face uncrumpled, smoothed
itself out to his rare look of seriousness." The point of it is that
we're all a little touched in the bean. I figure that you and I are
alike in some things. That's why we've always hung together. And all
this queer stuff takes us two the same way. Remember that psychology
dope old Rand used to pump into us at college? Well, our psychologies
have got all twisted up by a recent event in nautical circles and
we're seeing things that aren't there and not seeing things that are
"Honey," said Billy, "that's all right. But I want you to
understand me and I don't want you, to make any mistake. I saw a
"And don't forget this," answered Honey. "I heard one."
Billy made no allusion to any of this with the other three men. But
for the rest of the day, he had a return of his gentle good humor.
Honey's spirits fairly sizzled.
That night Frank Merrill suddenly started out of sleep with a
yelled, "What was that?"
"What was what?" everybody demanded, waking immediately to the
panic in his voice.
"That cry," he explained breathlessly, "didn't you hear it?"
Frank's eyes were brilliant with excitement; he was pale.
Nobody had heard it. And Ralph Addington and Pete Murphy, cursing
lustily, turned over and promptly fell asleep again. But Billy Fairfax
grew rapidly more and more awake. "What sort of a cry?" he asked.
Honey Smith said nothing, but he stirred the fire into a blaze in
preparation for a talk.
"The strangest cry I ever heard, long-drawn-out, wild—eerie's the
word for it, I guess," Frank Merrill said. As he spoke, he peered off
into the darkness. "If it were possible, I should say it was a woman's
The three men walked away from the camp, looked off into every
direction of the starlit night. Nowhere was there sign or sound of
"It must have been gulls," said Honey Smith.
"It didn't sound like gulls," answered Frank Merrill. For an
instant he fell into meditation so deep that he virtually forgot the
presence of the other two. "I don't know what it was," he said finally
in an exasperated tone. "I'm going to sleep."
They walked back to camp. Frank Merrill rolled himself up in a
blanket, lay down. Soon there came from his direction only the sound
of regular, deep breathing.
"Well, Honey," Billy Fairfax asked, a note of triumph in his voice,
"how about it?"
"Well, Billy," Honey Smith said in a baffled tone, "when you get
the answer, give it to me."
Nobody mentioned the night's experience the next day. But a dozen
times Frank Merrill stopped his work to gaze out to sea, an expression
of perplexity on his face.
The next night, however, they were all waked again, waked twice. It
was Ralph Addington who spoke first; a kind of hoarse grunt and a
"What the devil was that?"
"What?" the others called.
"Damned if I know," Ralph answered. "If you wouldn't think I was
off my conch, I'd say it was a gang of women laughing."
Pete Murphy, who always woke in high spirits, began to joke Ralph
Addington. The other three were silent. In fifteen minutes they were
all asleep; sixty, they were all awake again.
It was Pete Murphy who sounded the alarm this time. "Say, something
spoke to me," he said. "Or else I'm a nut. Or else I have had the most
vivid dream I've ever had." Evidently he did not believe that it was a
dream. He sat up and listened; the others listened, too. There was no
sound in the soft, still night, however. They talked for a little
while, a strangely subdued quintette. It was as though they were all
trying to comment on these experiences without saying anything about
They slept through the next night undisturbed until just before
sunrise. Then Honey Smith woke them. It was still dark, but a fine
dawn-glow had begun faintly to silver the east. "Say, you fellows," he
exclaimed. "Wake up!" His voice vibrated with excitement, although he
seemed to try to keep it low. "There are strange critters round here.
No mistake this time. Woke with a start, feeling that something had
brushed over me— saw a great bird—a gigantic thing—flying off
heard one woman's laugh —then another—."
It was significant that nobody joked Honey this time. "Say, this
island'll be a nut-house if this keeps up," Pete Murphy said
irritably. "Let's go to sleep again."
"No, you don't!" said Honey. "Not one of you is going to sleep.
You're all going to sit up with me until the blasted sun comes up."
People always hastened to accommodate Honey. In spite of the hour,
they began to rake the fire, to prepare breakfast. The others became
preoccupied gradually, but Honey still sat with his face towards the
It grew brighter.
"It's time we started to build a camp, boys," Frank Merrill said,
withdrawing momentarily from deep reflection. "We'll go crazy doing
nothing all the time. We'll—."
"Great God," Honey interrupted. "Look!"
Far out to sea and high in the air, birds were flying. There were
five of them and they were enormous. They flew with amazing strength,
swiftness, and grace; but for the most part they about a fixed area
like bees at a honey-pot. It was a limited area, but within it they
dipped, dropped, curved, wove in and out.
"Well, I'll be—."
"They're those black spots we saw the first day, Pete," Billy
Fairfax said breathlessly. "We thought it was the sun."
"That's what I heard in the night," Frank Merrill gasped to Ralph
"But what are they?" asked Honey Smith in a voice that had a
falsetto note of wonder. "They laugh like a woman—take it from me."
Murphy recited his list in an or of imaginative conjecture.
"They're some lost species—something left over from a prehistoric
era," Frank Merrill explained, shaking with excitement. "No vulture or
eagle or condor could be as big as that at this distance. At least I
think so." He paused here, as one studying the problem in the
scientific spirit. "Often in the Rockies I've confused a nearby
chicken-hawk, at first, with a far eagle. But the human eye has its
own system of triangulation. Those are not little birds nearby, but
big birds far off. See how heavily they soar. Do you realize what's
happened? We've made a discovery that will shake the whole scientific
world. There, there, they're going!"
"My God, look at them beat it!" said Honey; and there was awe in
"Why, they're monster size," Frank Merrill went on, and his voice
had grown almost hysterical. "They could carry one of us off. We're
not safe. We must take measures at once to protect ourselves. Why, at
night —We must make traps. If we can capture one, or, better, a pair,
we're famous. We're a part of history now."
They watched the strange birds disappear over the water. For more
than an hour, the men sat still, waiting for them to return. They did
not come back, however. The men hung about camp all day long, talking
of nothing else. Night came at last, but sleep was not in them. The
dark seemed to give a fresh impulse to conversation. Conjecture
battled with theory and fact jousted with fancy. But one conclusion
was as futile as another.
Frank Merrill tried to make them devise some system of defense or
concealment, but the others laughed at him. Talk as he would, he could
not seem to convince them of their danger. Indeed, their state of mind
was entirely different from his. Mentally he seemed to boil with
interest and curiosity, but it was the sane, calm, open-minded
excitement of the scientist. The others were alert and preoccupied in
turn, but there was an element of reserve in their attitude. Their
eyes kept going off into space, fixing there until their look became
one brooding question. They avoided conversation. They avoided each
Gradually they drew off from the fire, settled themselves to rest,
fell into the splendid sleep that followed their long out-of-doors
In the middle of the night, Billy Fairfax came out of a dream to
the knowledge that somebody was shaking him gently, firmly, furtively.
"Don't move!" Honey Smith's voice whispered; "keep quiet till I wake
It was a still and moon-lighted world. Billy Fairfax lay quiet, his
wide-open eyes fixed on the luminous sky. The sense of drowse was
being brushed out of his brain as though by a mighty whirlwind, and in
its place came a vague sensation of confusion, of excitement, of a
miraculous abnormality. He heard Honey Smith crawl slowly from man to
man, heard him whisper his adjuration once, twice, three times. "Now,"
Honey called finally.
The men looked seawards. Then, simultaneously they leaped to their
The semi-tropical moon was at its full. Huge, white, embossed, cut
out, it did not shine—it glared from the sky. It made a melted
moonstone of the atmosphere. It faded the few clouds to a
sapphire-gray, just touched here and there with the chalky dot of a
star. It slashed a silver trail across a sea jet-black except where
the waves rimmed it with snow. Up in the white enchantment, but not
far above them, the strange air-creatures were flying. They were not
birds; they were winged women!
Darting, diving, glancing, curving, wheeling, they interwove in
what seemed the premeditated figures of an aerial dance. If they were
conscious of the group of men on the beach, they did not show it; they
seemed entirely absorbed in their flying. Their wings, like enormous
scimitars, caught the moonlight, flashed it back. For an interval,
they played close in a group inextricably intertwined, a revolving
ball of vivid color. Then, as if seized by a common impulse, they
stretched, hand in hand, in a line across the sky-drifted. The
moonlight flooded them full, caught glitter and gleam from
wing-sockets, shot shimmer and sheen from wing-tips, sent cataracts of
iridescent color pulsing between. Snow-silver one, brilliant green and
gold another, dazzling blue the next, luminous orange a fourth,
flaming flamingo scarlet the last, their colors seemed half liquid,
half light. One moment the whole figure would flare into a splendid
blaze, as if an inner mechanism had suddenly turned on all the
electricity; the next, the blaze died down to the fairy glisten given
by the moonlight.
As if by one impulse, they began finally to fly upward. Higher and
higher they rose, still hand in hand. Detail of color and movement
vanished. The connotation of the sexed creature, of the human thing,
evaporated. One instant, relaxed, they seemed tiny galleons, all sails
set, that floated lazily, the sport of an aerial sea; another, supple
and sinuous, they seemed monstrous fish whose fins triumphantly clove
the air, monarchs of that aerial sea.
A little of this and then came another impulse. The great wings
furled close like blades leaping back to scabbard; the flying-girls
dropped sheer in a dizzying fall. Half-way to the ground, they stopped
simultaneously as if caught by some invisible air plateau. The great
feathery fans opened—and this time the men got the whipping whirr of
them—spread high, palpitated with color. From this lower level, the
girls began to fall again, but gently, like dropping clouds.
Nearer they came to the petrified group on the beach, nearer and
nearer. Undoubtedly they had known all the time that an audience was
there; undoubtedly they had planned this; they looked down and smiled.
And now the men had every detail of them—the brown seaweeds and
green sea-grasses that swathed them, their bodies just short of heroic
size, deep-bosomed, broad-waisted, long-limbed; their arms round like
a woman's and strong like a man's; their hair that fell, a braid over
each ear, twined with brilliant flowers and green vines; their faces
super-humanly beautiful, though elvish; the gaminerie in their
laughing eyes, which sparkled through half-closed, thick-lashed lids,
the gaminerie in their smiling mouths, which showed twin rows of pearl
gleaming in tricksy mirth; their big, strong-looking, long-fingered
hands; their slimly smooth, exquisitely shaped, too-tiny, transparent
feet; their strong wrists; their stem-like, breakable ankles. Closer
and closer and closer they came. And now the men could almost touch
them. They paused an instant and fluttered—fluttered like a swarm of
butterflies undecided where to fly. As though choosing to rest, they
hovered-hovered with a gentle, slow, seductive undulation of wings, of
hands, of feet.
Then another impulse took them.
They broke handclasps and up they went, like arrows straight up—
up— up—up. Then they turned out to sea, streaming through the air
in line still, but one behind the other. And for the first time, sound
came from them; they threw off peals of girl-laughter that fell like
handfuls of diamonds. Their mirth ended in a long, eerie cry. Then
straight out to the eastern horizon they went and away and off.
They were dwindling rapidly.
They were spots.
They were specks.
They were nothing.
Silence, profound, portentous, protracted, followed.
Finally, Honey Smith absently stooped and picked up a pebble. He
threw it over the silver ring of the flat, foam-edged, low-tide waves.
It curved downwards, hissed across a surface of water smooth as jade,
skipped four times, and dropped.
The men strained their eyes to follow the progress of this tangible
"Where do you suppose they've gone?" Honey said as unexcitedly as
one might inquire directions from a stranger.
"When do you suppose they'll come back?" Billy Fairfax added as
casually as one might ask the time.
"Did you notice the red-headed one?" asked Pete Murphy. "My first
girl had red hair. I always jump when I see a carrot-top." He made
this intimate revelation simply, as if the time for a conventional
reticence had passed.
"They were lookers all right," Ralph Addington went on. "I'd pick
the golden blonde, the second from the right." He, too, spoke in a
matter-of-fact tone, as though he were selecting a favorite from the
front row in the chorus.
"It must have happened if we saw it," Frank Merrill said. There was
in his voice a note of petulance, almost childish. "But we ought not
to have seen it. It has no right to be. It upsets things so."
"What are we all standing up like gawks for?" Pete Murphy demanded
with a sudden irritability.
Everybody dropped. They all sat as they fell. They sat motionless.
They sat silent.
"The name of this place is 'Angel Island,'" announced Billy Fairfax
after a long time. His tone was that of a man whose thoughts, swirling
in phantasmagoria, seek anchorage in fact.
They did not sleep that night.
When Frank Merrill arose the next morning, Ralph Addington was just
returning from a stroll down the beach. Ralph looked at the same time
exhausted and recuperated. He was white, tense, wild-eyed, but
recently aroused interior fires glowed through his skin, made up for
his lost color and energy. Frank also had a different look. His eyes
had kindled, his face had become noticeably more alive. But it was the
fire of the intellect that had produced this frigid glow.
"Seen anything?" Frank Merrill inquired.
"Not a thing."
"You don't think they're frightened enough not to come back?"
The gleam in Ralph Addington's eye changed to flame. "I don't think
they're frightened at all. They'll come back all right. There's only
one thing that you can depend on in women; and that is that you can't
"I can scarcely wait to see them again," Frank exclaimed eagerly.
"Addington, I can write a monograph on those flying-maidens that will
make the whole world gasp. This is the greatest discovery of modern
times. Man alive, don't you itch to get to paper and pencil?"
"Not so I've noticed it," Ralph replied with contemptuous emphasis.
"I shall lie awake nights, just the same though."
"Say, fellers, we didn't dream that, did we?" Billy Fairfax called
suddenly, rolling out of the sleep that had followed their all-night
"Well, I reckon if it wasn't for the other four, no one of us would
trust his own senses," Frank Merrill said dryly.
"If you'd listened to me in the beginning," Honey Smith remarked in
a drowsy voice, not bothering to open his, eyes, "I wouldn't be the
I-told-you-so kid now."
"Well, if you'd listened to me and Pete!" said Billy Fairfax;
"didn't we think, way back there that first day, that our lamps were
on the blink because we saw black spots? Great Scott, what dreams I've
had," he went on, "a mixture of 'Arabian Nights,' 'Gulliver's
Travels,' 'Peter Wilkins,' 'Peter Pan,' 'Goosie,' Jules, Verne, H. G.
Wells, and every dime novel I've ever read. Do you suppose they'll
"I've just talked that over with Ralph," Frank Merrill answered
him. "If we've frightened them away forever, it will be a terrible
loss to science."
Ralph Addington emitted one of his cackling, ironic laughs. "I
guess I'm not worrying as much about science as I might. But as to
their coming back—why, it stands to reason that they'll have just as
much curiosity about us as we have about them. Curiosity's a woman's
strong point, you know. Oh, they'll come back all right! The only
question is, How soon?"
"It made me dream of music—of Siegfried." It was Pete Murphy who
spoke and he seemed to plump from sleep straight into the
conversation. "What a theme for grand opera. Women with wings!
Flying-girls! Will you tell me what the Hippodrome! has on Angel
"Nothing," said Honey Smith, "except this—you can get acquainted
with a Hippodrome girl—how long is it going to take us to get
acquainted with these angels?"
"Not any longer than usual," said Ralph Addington with an
expressive wink. "Leave that to me. I'm going now to see what I can
see." He walked rapidly down the beach, scaled the southern reef, and
stood there studying the horizon.
The others remained sitting on the sand. For a while they watched
Ralph. Then they talked the whole thing over with as much interest as
if they had not yet discussed it. Ralph rejoined them and they went
through it again. It was as though by some miracle of
mind-transference, they had all dreamed the same dream; as though, by
some miracle of sight-transference they had all seen the same vision;
as though, by some miracle of space-transference, they had all stepped
into the fourth dimension. Their comment was ever of the wonder of
their strange adventure, the beauty, the thrill, the romance of it. It
had brought out in them every instinct of chivalry and kindness, it
had developed in them every tendency towards high-mindedness and
idealism. Angel Island would be an Atlantis, an Eden, an Arden, an
Arcadia, a Utopia, a Milleamours, a Paradise, the Garden of
Hesperides. Into it the Golden Age would come again. They drew glowing
pictures of the wonderful friendships that would grow up on Angel
Island between them and their beautiful visitors. These poetic
considerations gave way finally to a discussion of ways and means.
They agreed that they must get to work at once on some sort of shelter
for their guests, in case the weather should turn bad. They even
discussed at length the best methods of teaching the English language.
They talked the whole morning, going over the same things again and
again, questioning each other eagerly without listening for an answer,
interrupting ruthlessly, and then adding nothing.
The day passed without event. At the slightest sound they all
jumped. Their sleeplessness was beginning to tell on them and their
nerves were still obsessed by the unnaturalness of their experience.
It was a long time before they quieted down, but the night passed
without interruption. So did the next day. Another day went by and
another, and during this time they did little but sit about and talk.
"See here, boys," Ralph Addington said one morning. "I say we get
together and build some cabins. There's no calculating how long this
grand weather'll keep up. The first thing we know we'll be up against
a rainy season. Isn't that right, Professor?"
On most practical matters Ralph treated Frank Merrill's opinion
with a contempt that was offensively obvious to the others. In
questions of theory or of abstruse information, he was foolishly
deferential. At those times, he always gave Frank his title of
"I hardly think so," Frank Merrill answered. "I think we'll have an
equable, semi-tropical climate all the year round—about like
"Well, anyway," Ralph Addington went on, "it's barbarous living
like this. And we want to be prepared for anything." His gaze left
Frank Merrill's face and traveled with a growing significance to each
of the other three. "Anything," he repeated with emphasis. "We've got
enough truck here to make a young Buckingham Palace. And we'll go mad
sitting round waiting for those air-queens to pay us a visit. How
"It's an excellent idea," Frank Merrill said heartily. "I have been
on the point of proposing it many times myself."
However, they seemed unable to pull themselves together; they did
nothing that day. But the next morning, urged back to work by the
harrying monotony of waiting, they began to clear a space among the
trees close to the beach. Two of them had a little practical building
knowledge: Ralph Addington who had roughed it in many strange
countries; Billy Fairfax who, in the San Francisco earthquake, had on
a wager built himself a house. They worked with all their initial
energy. They worked with the impetus that comes from capable
supervision. And they worked as if under the impulse of some
unformulated motive. As usual, Honey Smith bubbled with spirits. Billy
Fairfax and Pete Murphy hardly spoke, so close was their
concentration. Ralph Addington worked longer and harder than anybody,
and even Honey was not more gay; he whistled and sang constantly.
Frank Merrill showed no real interest in these proceedings. He did his
fair share of the work, but obviously without a driving motive. He had
reverted utterly to type. He spent his leisure writing a monograph.
When inspiration ran low, he occupied himself doctoring books.
Eternally, he hunted for the flat stones between which he pressed
their swollen bulks back to shape. Eternally he puttered about,
mending and patching them. He used to sit for hours at a desk which he
had rescued from the ship's furniture. The others never became
accustomed to the comic incongruity of this picture—especially when,
later, he virtually boxed himself in with a trio of book-cases.
"Wouldn't you think he was sitting in an office?" Ralph Addington
"Curious about Merrill," Honey Smith answered, indulging in one of
his sudden, off-hand characterizations, bull's-eye shots every one of
them. "He's a good man, ruined by culturine. He's the bucko-mate type
translated into the language of the academic world. Three centuries
ago he'd have been a Drake or a Frobisher. And to-day, even, if he'd
followed the lead of his real ability, he'd have made a great
financier, a captain of industry or a party boss. But, you see, he was
brought up to think that book-education was the whole cheese. The only
ambition he knows is to make good in the university world. How I hated
that college atmosphere and its insistence on culture! That was what
riled me most about it. As a general thing, I detest a professor.
Can't help liking old Frank, though."
The four men virtually took no time off from work; or at least the
change of work that stood for leisure was all in the line of
home-making. Eternally, they joked each other about these womanish
occupations; but they all kept steadily to it. Ralph Addington and
Honey Smith put the furniture into shape, repairing and polishing it.
Billy Fairfax sorted out the glass, china, tools, household utensils
of every kind.
Pete Murphy went through the trunks with his art side uppermost. He
collected all kinds of Oriental bric-a-brac, pictures and draperies.
He actually mended and pressed things; he had all the artist's
capability in these various feminine lines. When the others joked him
about his exotic and impracticable tastes, he said that, before he
left, he intended to establish a museum of fine arts, on Angel Island.
Hard as the men worked, they had always the appearance of those who
await the expected. But the expected did not occur; and gradually the
sharp edge of anticipation wore dull. Emotionally they calmed. Their
nerves settled to a normal condition. The sudden whirr of a bird's
flight attracted only a casual glance. In Ralph Addington alone,
expectation maintained itself at the boiling point. He trained himself
to work with one eye searching the horizon. One afternoon, when they
had scattered for a siesta, his hoarse cry brought them running to the
beach from all directions.
So suddenly had the girls appeared that they might have
materialized from the air. This time they had not come from the sea.
When Ralph discovered them, they were hovering back of them above the
trees that banded the beach. The sun was setting, blood-red; the whole
western sky had broken away. The girls seemed to be floating in a sea
of crimson-amber ether. Its light brought lustre to every feather; it
turned the edges of their wings to flame; it changed their smoothly
piled hair to helmets of burnished metal.
The men tore from the beach to the trees at full speed. For a
moment the violence of this action threw the girls into a panic. They
fluttered, broke lines, flew high, circled. And all the time, they
uttered shrill cries of distress.
"They're frightened," Billy Fairfax said. "Keep quiet, boys."
The men stopped running, stood stock-still.
Gradually the girls calmed, sank, took up the interweaving figures
of their air-dance. If at their first appearance they seemed creatures
of the sea, this time they were as distinctively of the forest. They
looked like spirits of the trees over which they hovered. Indeed, but
for their wings they might have been dryads. Wreaths of green
encircled their heads and waists. Long leafy streamers trailed from
their shoulders. Often in the course of their aerial play, they
plunged down into the feathery tree-tops.
Once, the blonde with the blue wings sailed out of the group and
balanced herself for a toppling second on a long, outstretching bough.
"Good Lord, what a picture!" Pete Murphy said.
As if she understood, she repeated her performance. She cast a
glance over her shoulder at them—unmistakably noting the effect.
"Hates herself, doesn't she?" commented Honey Smith. "They're
talking!" he added after an interval of silence. "Some one of them is
giving directions—I can tell by the tone of her voice. Can't make
out which one it is though. Thank God, they can talk!"
"It's the quiet one—the blonde—the one with the white wings,"
Billy Fairfax explained. "She's captain. Some bean on her, too; she
straightened them out a moment ago when they got so frightened."
"I now officially file my claim," said Ralph Addington, "to that
peachy one—the golden blonde—the one with the blue wings, the one
who tried to stand on the bough. That girl's a corker. I can tell her
kind of pirate craft as far as I see it."
"Me for the thin one!" said Pete Murphy. "She's a pippin, if you
please. Quick as a cat! Graceful as they make them. And look at that
mop of red hair! Isn't that a holocaust? I bet she's a shrew."
You win, all right," agreed Ralph Addington. "I'd like nothing
better than the job of taming her, too."
"See here, Ralph," bantered Pete, "I've copped Brick-top for
myself. You keep off the grass. See!"
"All right," Ralph answered. "Katherine for yours, Petruchio. The
golden blonde for mine!" He smiled for the first time in days. In
fact, at sight of the flying-girls he had begun to beam with fatuous
Two blondes, two brunettes, and a red-top" said Honey Smith,
summing them up practically. "One of those brunettes, the brown one,
must be a Kanaka. The other's prettier—she looks like a Spanish
woman. There's something rather taking about the plain one, though.
Pretty snappy—if anybody should fly up in a biplane and ask you!"
"It's curious," Frank Merrill said with his most academic manner,
"it has not yet occurred to me to consider those young women from the
point of view of their physical pulchritude. I'm interested only in
their ability to fly. The one with the silver-white wings, the one
Billy calls the 'quiet one,' flies better than any of the others, The
dark one on the end, the one who looks like a Spaniard, flies least
well. It is rather disturbing, but I can think of them only as birds.
I have to keep recalling to myself that they're women. I can't realize
"Well, don't worry," Ralph Addington said with the contemptuous
accent with which latterly he answered all Frank Merrill's remarks.
The others laughed, but Frank turned on them a look of severe
"Oh, hell!" Honey Smith exclaimed in a regretful tone; "they're
beating it again. I say, girls," he called at the top of his lungs,
"don't go! Stay a little longer and we'll buy you a dinner and a
Apparently the flying-girls realized that he was addressing them.
For a hair's breadth of a second they paused. Then, with a speed that
had a suggestion of panic in it, they flew out to sea. And again a
flood of girl-laughter fell in bubbles upon them.
"They distrust muh!" Honey commented. But he smiled with the
indolent amusement of the man who has always held the master-hand with
"Must have come from the east, this time," he said as they filed
soberly back to camp. "But where in thunder do they start from?"
They had, of course, discussed this question as they had discussed
a hundred other obvious ones. "I'm wondering now," Frank Merrill
answered, "if there are islands both to the east and the west. But,
after all, I'm more interested to know if there are any more of these
winged women, and if there are any males."
Again they talked far into the night. And as before their comment
was of the wonder, the romance, the poetry of their strange situation.
And again they drew imaginary pictures of what Honey Smith called "the
young Golden Age" that they would soon institute on Angel Island.
"Say," Honey remarked facetiously when at length they started to
run down, "what happens to a man if he marries an angel? Does he
become angel-consort or one of those seraphim arrangements?"
Ralph Addington laughed. But Billy Fairfax and Pete Murphy frowned.
Frank Merrill did not seem to hear him. He was taking notes by the
The men continued to work at the high rate of speed that, since the
appearance of the women, they had set for themselves. But whatever
form their labor took, their talk was ever of the flying-girls. They
referred to them individually now as the "dark one," the "plain one,"
the "thin one," the "quiet one," and the "peachy one." They theorized
eternally about them. It was a long time, however, before they saw
them again, so long that they had begun to get impatient. In Ralph
Addington this uneasiness took the form of irritation. "If I'd had a
gun," he snarled more than once, "by the Lord Harry, I'd have winged
one of them." He sat far into the night and waited. He arose early in
the morning and watched. He went for long, slow, solitary, silent,
prowling hikes into the interior. His eyes began to look strained from
so minute a study of the horizon-line. He grew haggard. His attitude
in the matter annoyed Pete Murphy, who maintained that he had no right
to spy on women. Argument broke out between them, waxing hot, waned to
silence, broke out again and with increased fury. Frank Merrill and
Billy Fairfax listened to all this, occasionally smoothing things over
between the disputants. But Honey Smith, who seemed more amused than
bothered, deftly fed the flame of controversy by agreeing first with
one and then with the other.
Late one afternoon, just as the evening star flashed the signal of
twilight, the girls came streaming over the sea toward the island.
At the first far-away glimpse, the men dropped their tools and ran
to the water's edge. Honey Smith waded out, waist-deep.
"Well, what do you know about that?" he called out. "Pipe the
They came massed vertically. In the distance they might have been a
rainbow torn from its moorings, borne violently forward on a high
wind. The rainbow broke in spots, fluttered, and then came together
again. It vibrated with color. It pulsed with iridescence.
"How the thunder—" Addington began and stopped. "Well, can you
beat it?" he concluded.
The human column was so arranged that the wings of one of the
air-girls concealed the body of another just above her.
The "dark one" led, flying low, her scarlet pinions beating slowly
back and forth about her head.
Just above, near enough for her body to be concealed by the scarlet
wings of the "dark one," but high enough for her pointed brown face to
peer between their curves, came the "plain one."
Higher flew the "thin one." Her body was entirely covered by the
orange wings of the "plain one," but her copper-colored hair made a
gleamy spot in their vase-shaped opening.
Still higher appeared the "peachy one." She seemed to be holding
her lustrous blonde head carefully centered in the oval between the
"thin one's" green-and-yellow plumage. She looked like a portrait in a
Highest of them all, floating upright, a Winged Victory of the air,
her silver wings towering straight above her head, the cameo face of
the "quiet one" looked level into the distance.
Their wings moved in rotation, and with machine-like regularity.
First one pair flashed up, swept back and down, then another, and
another. As they neared, the color seemed the least wonderful detail
of the picture. For it changed in effect from a column of glittering
wings to a column of girl-faces, a column that floated light as
thistle-down, a column that divided, parted, opened, closed again.
The background of all this was a veil of dark gauze at the
horizon-line, its foil a golden, virgin moon, dangling a single
"They're talking!" Honey Smith exclaimed. "And they're leaving!"
The girls did not pause once. They flew in a straight line over the
island to the west, always maintaining their columnar formation. At
first the men thought that they were making for the trees. They ran
after them. The speed of their running had no effect this time on
their visitors, who continued to sail eastward. The men called on them
to stay. They called repeatedly, singly and in chorus. They called in
every tone of humble masculine entreaty and of arrogant masculine
command. But their cries might have fallen on marble ears. The girls
neither turned nor paused. They disappeared.
"Females are certainly alike under their skins, whether they're
angels or Hottentots," Ralph Addington commented. " That tableau
appearance was all cooked up for us. They must have practised it for
"It has the rose-carnival at Tetaluma, Cal., faded," remarked Honey
"The 'quiet one' was giving the orders for that wing-movement,"
said Billy Fairfax. "She whispered them, but I heard her. She
engineered the whole thing. She seems to be their leader."
"I got their voices this time," said Pete Murphy. "Beautiful, all
of them. Soprano, high and clear. They've got a language, all right,
too. What did you think of it, Frank?"
"Most interesting," replied Frank Merrill, "most interesting. A
preponderance of consonants. Never guttural in effect, and as you say,
beautiful voices, very high and clear."
"I don't see why they don't stop and play," complained Honey. His
tone was the petulant one of a spoiled child. It is likely that during
the whole course of his woman-petted existence, he had never been so
completely ignored. "If I only knew their lingo, I could convince them
in five minutes that we wouldn't hurt them."
"If we could only signal," said Billy Fairfax, "that if they'd only
come down to earth, we wouldn't go any nearer than they wanted. But
the deuce of it is proving to them that we don't bite."
"It is probably that they have known only males of a more primitive
type," Frank Merrill explained. "Possibly they are accustomed to
marriage by capture."
"That would be a very lucky thing," Ralph explained in an aside to
Honey. "Marriage by capture isn't such a foolish proposition, after
all. Look at the Sabine women. I never heard tell that there was any
kick coming from them. It all depends on the men."
"Oh, Lord, Ralph, marriage by capture isn't a sporting
proposition," said Honey in a disgusted tone. "I'm not for it. A man
doesn't get a run for his money. It's too much like shooting trapped
"Well, I will admit that there's more fun in the chase," Ralph
"Oh, well, if the little darlings are not accustomed to chivalry
from men," Pete Murphy was in the meantime saying, "that explains why
they stand us off."
It was typical of Pete to refer to the flying-girls as "little
darlings." The shortest among them was, of course, taller than he. But
to Pete any woman was "little one," no matter what her stature, as any
woman was "pure as the driven snow" until she proved the contrary.
This impregnable simplicity explained much of the disaster of his
"I am convinced," Frank Merrill said meditatively, "we must go
about winning their confidence with the utmost care. One false step
might be fatal. I know what your impatience is though—for I can
hardly school myself to wait—that extraordinary phenomenon of the
wings interests me so much. The great question in my mind is their
position biologically and sociologically."
"The only thing that bothers me," Honey contributed solemnly, "is
whether or not they're our social equals."
Even Frank Merrill laughed. "I mean, are they birds," he went on
still in a puzzled tone, "free creatures of the air, or, women, bound
creatures of the earth? And what should be our attitude toward them?
Have we the right to capture them as ornithological specimens, or is
it our duty to respect their liberty as independent human beings?
"They're neither birds nor women," Pete Murphy burst out
impetuously. "They're angels. Our duty is to fall down and worship
"They're women," said Billy Fairfax earnestly. "Our duty is to
cherish and protect them."
"They're girls," Honey insisted jovially, "our duty is to josh and
jolly them, to buy them taxicabs, theater-tickets, late suppers,
candy, and flowers."
"They're females," said Ralph Addington contemptuously. "Our duty
is to tame, subjugate, infatuate, and control them."
Frank Merrill listened to each with the look on his face, half
perplexity, half irritation, which always came when the conversation
took a humorous turn. "I am myself inclined to look upon them as an
entirely new race of beings, requiring new laws," he said
Although the quick appearance and the quick departure of the girls
had upset the men temporarily, they went back to work at once. And as
though inspired by their appearance, they worked like tigers. As
before, they talked constantly of them, piling mountains of conjecture
on molehills of fact. But now their talk was less of the wonder and
the romance of the situation and more of the irritation of it. Ralph
Addington's unease seemed to have infected them all. Frank Merrill had
actually to coax them to keep at their duty of patrolling the beach.
They were constantly studying the horizon for a glimpse of their
strange visitors. Every morning they said, "I hope they'll come
to-day"; every night, "Perhaps they'll come to-morrow." And always,
"They won't put it over on us this time when we're not looking."
But in point of fact, the next visit of the flying girls came when
they least expected it—late in the evening.
It had been damp and dull all day. A high fog was gradually melting
out of the air. Back of it a misty moon, more mature now, gleamed like
a flask of honey in a golden veil. A few stars glimmered, placid,
pale, and big. Suddenly between fog and earth—and they seemed to
emerge from the mist like dreams from sleep—appeared the five
The fog had blurred the vividness of their plumage. The color no
longer throbbed from wing-sockets to wing-tips; light no longer
pulsated there. But great scintillating beads of fog-dew outlined the
long curves of the wings, accentuated the long curves of the body.
Hair, brows, lashes glittered as if threaded with diamonds. Their
cheeks and lips actually glowed, luscious as ripe fruit.
"My God!" groaned Pete Murphy; "how beautiful and inaccessible! But
women should be inaccessible," he ended with a sigh.
"Not so inaccessible as they were, though,"
Ralph Addington said. Again the appearance of the women had
transformed him physically and mentally. He moved with the nervous
activity of a man strung on wires. His brown eyes showed yellow gleams
like a cat's. "They're flying lower and slower to-night."
It did seem as though the fog, light as it was, definitely impeded
their wings. It gave to their movements a little languor that had a
plaintive appealing quality. Perhaps they realized this themselves. In
the midst of their aerial evolutions suddenly—and apparently without
cause— they developed panic, turned seawards. Their audience, taken
by surprise, burst into shouts of remonstrance, ran after them. The
clamor and the motion seemed only to add to the girls' alarm. Their
retreating speed was almost frenzied.
"What the—what's frightened them?" Honey Smith asked. Honey's
brows had come together in an unaccustomed scowl. He bit his lips.
"Give it up," Billy Fairfax answered, and his tone boiled with
exasperation. "I hope they haven't been frightened away for good."
"I think every time it's the last," exclaimed Pete Murphy, "but
they keep coming back."
"Son," said Ralph Addington, and there was a perceptible element of
patronage in his tone, "I'll tell you the exact order of events. It
threw a scare into the girls to-night that they couldn't fly so well.
But in an hour's time, they'll be sore because they didn't put up a
good exhibition. Now, if I know anything at all about women—and
maybe I flatter myself, but I think I know a lot—they'll be back the
first thing to-morrow to prove to us that their bad flying was not our
effect on them but the weather's."
Whether Ralph's theory was correct could not, of course, be
ascertained. But in the matter of prophecy, he was absolutely
vindicated. About half-way through the morning five black spots
appeared in the west. They grew gradually to bewildering shapes and
colors, for the girls came dressed in gowns woven of brilliant
flowers. And the torrents of their beautiful hair floated loose. This
time they held themselves grouped close; they kept themselves aloof,
high. But again came the sinuous interplay of flower-clad bodies, the
flashing evolution of rainbow wings, the dazzling interweaving of
snowy arms and legs. It held the men breathless.
"They're like goldfish in a bowl," Billy Fairfax said. "I never saw
such suppleness. You wouldn't think they had a bone in their systems."
"I bet they're as strong as tigers, though," commented Addington.
"I wouldn't want to handle more than one of them at once."
"I think I could handle two," remarked Frank Merrill. He said this,
not boastfully, but as one who states an interesting fact. And he
spoke as impersonally as though the girls were machines.
Ralph Addington studied Frank Merrill's gigantic copper-colored
bulk enviously. "I guess you could," he agreed.
"Fortunately," Frank went on, "it would be impossible for such a
situation to arise. Men don't war on women."
"On the contrary," Ralph disagreed, "men always war on women, and
women on men. Why, Merrill," he added with his inevitable tone of
patronage, "aren't you wise to the fact that the war between the sexes
is in reality more bitter and bloody than any war between the races?"
But Frank did not answer. He only stared.
"Did you notice," Pete Murphy asked, "what wonderful hair they had?
Loose like that—they looked more than ever like Valkyries."
"Yes, I got that," Ralph answered. He smiled until all his white
teeth showed. "And take it from me, that's a point gained. When a
woman begins to let her hair down, she's interested."
"Well," said Honey Smith, "their game may be the same as every
other woman's you've known, but it takes a damned long time to come
down to cases. What I want to know is how many months more will have
to pass before we speak when we pass by."
"That matter'll take care of itself," Ralph reassured him. "You
leave it to natural selection."
"Well, it's a deuce of a slow process," Honey grumbled.
What hitherto had been devotion to their work grew almost to mania.
It increased their interest that the little settlement of five cabins
was fast taking shape. The men slept in beds now; for they had
furnished their rooms. They had begun to decorate the walls. They
re-opened the trunks and made another careful division of spoils. They
were even experimenting with razors and quarreling amicably over their
merits. At night, when their work was done, they actually changed
"One week more of this," commented Honey Smith, "and we'll be
serving meals in courses. I hope that our lady-friends will call
sometime when we're dressed for dinner. I've tried several flossy
effects in ties without results. But I expect to lay them out cold
with these riding-boots."
Nevertheless many days passed and the flying-girls continued not to
"I don't believe they're ever coming again," Pete Murphy said one
day in a tone of despair.
"Oh, they'll come," Ralph Addington insisted. "They think
themselves that they're not coming again, after having proved to us
that they could fly just as well as ever. But they'll appear sometime
when we least expect it. There's something pulling them over here
that's stronger than anything they've ever come up against. They don't
know what it is, but we do—Mr. G. Bernard Shaw's life-force. They
haven't realized yet what put the spoke in their wheel, but it will
bring them here in the end."
But days and days went by. The men worked hard, in the main
good-naturedly, but with occasional outbreaks of discontent and
irritation. "How about that proposition of the life-force?" they asked
Ralph Addington again and again. "You wait!" was all he ever answered.
One day, Honey Smith, who had gone off for a solitary walk, came
running back to camp. "What do you think?" he burst out when he got
within earshot. "I've seen one of them, the little brunette, the one
with the orange wings, the 'plain one.' She was flying on the other
side of the island all by her lonesome. She saw me first, and as sure
as I stand here, she called to me—a regular bird-call. I whistled
and she came flying over in my direction. Blamed if she didn't keep
right over my head for the whole trip."
"Low?" Ralph questioned eagerly.
"Yes," Honey answered succinctly, "but not low enough. I couldn't
touch her, of course. If I stopped for a while and kept quiet as the
dead, she'd come much closer. But the instant I made a move towards—
bing!— she hit the welkin. But the way she rubbered. And, Lord, how
easy scared. Once I waved my handkerchief—she nearly threw a fit.
Strangest sensation I've ever had in my life to be walking calmly
along like that with a girl beside me—flying. She isn't so plain
when you get close— she does look like a Kanaka, though." He stopped
and burst out laughing. "Funny thing! I kept calling her Lulu. After a
while, she got it that that was her tag. She didn't exactly come
closer when I said 'Lulu,' but she'd turn her head over her shoulder
and look at me."
"Well, damn you and your beaux yeux!" said Ralph. There was a real
chagrin behind the amusement in his voice.
"Did you notice the muscular development of her back and
shoulders?" Frank Merrill asked eagerly.
"No," said Honey regretfully, "I don't seem to remember anything
but her face."
The next morning when they were working, Pete Murphy suddenly
yelled in an excited voice, "Here comes one of them!"
Everybody turned. There, heading straight towards them, an
unbelievable orange patch sailing through the blue sky, flew the
"Lulu! Lulu! Here I am, Lulu," Honey called in his most coaxing
tone and with his most radiant smile. Lulu did not descend, but,
involuntarily it seemed, she turned her course a little nearer to
Honey. She fluttered an instant over his head, then flew straight as
an arrow eastward.
"She's a looker, all right, all right," Ralph Addington said,
gazing as long as she was in sight. "I guess I'll trade my blonde for
your brunette, Honey."
"I bet you won't," answered Honey. "I've got Lulu half-tamed.
She'll be eating out of my hand in another week."
They found this incident exciting enough to justify them in laying
off from work the rest of the afternoon. But they had to get
accustomed to it in the week that followed. Thereafter, some time
during the day, the cry would ring out, "Here's your girl, Honey!" And
Honey, not even dropping his tools, would smile over his shoulder at
the approaching Lulu.
As time went by, she ventured nearer and nearer, stayed longer and
longer. Honey, calmly driving nails, addressed to her an endless,
chaffing monologue. At first, it was apparent she was as much repelled
by the tools as she was fascinated by Honey. For him to throw a nail
to the ground was the signal for her to speed to the zenith. But
gradually, in spite of the noise they made, she came to accept them as
dumb, inanimate, harmless. And one day, when Honey, working on the
roof, dropped a screw-driver, she flew down, picked it up, flew back,
and placed it within reach of his hand. She would hover over him for
hours, helping in many small ways. This only, however, when the other
men were sufficiently far away and only when Honey's two hands were
occupied. If any one of them—Honey and the rest—made the most
casual of accidental moves in her direction, her flight was that of an
arrow. But nobody could have been more careful than they not to
They always stopped, however, to watch her approach and her
departure. There was something irresistibly feminine about Lulu's
flight. She herself seemed to appreciate this. If anybody looked at
her, she exhibited her accomplishments with an eagerness that had a
charming touch of naivete. She dipped and dove endlessly. She dealt in
little darts and rushes, bird-like in their speed and grace. She never
flew high, but, on her level, her activity was marvelous.
"The supermanning little imp!" Pete Murphy said again and again.
"The vain little devil," Ralph Addington would add, chuckling.
"How the thunder did we ever start to call her the 'plain one'?"
Honey was always asking in an injured tone.
Lulu was far from plain. She was, however, one of those girls who
start by being "ugly" or "queer-looking," or downright "homely," and
end by becoming "interesting" or "picturesque" or "fascinating,"
according to the divagations of the individual vocabulary. She had the
beaute troublante. At first sight, you might have called her gipsy,
Indian, Kanaka, Chinese, Japanese, Korean—any exotic type that you
had not seen. Which is to say that she had the look of the primitive
woman and the foreign woman. Superficially, her beauty of irregularity
was of all beauty the most perturbing and provocative. Eyes, skin,
hair, she was all copper-browns and crimson-bronzes, all the high
gloss of satiny surfaces. Every shape and contour was a variant from
the regular. Her eyes took a bewildering slant. Her face showed a
little piquant stress on the cheekbones. Her hair banded in a long,
solid, club-like braid. In repose she bore a look a little sullen, a
little heavy. When she smiled, it seemed as if her whole face waked
up; but it was only the glitter of white teeth in the slit of her
Lulu always dressed in browns and greens; leaves, mosses, grasses
made a dim-colored, velvety fabric that contrasted richly with her
coppery satin surfaces and her brilliant orange wings.
The excitement of this had hardly died down when Frank Merrill
brought the tale of another adventure to camp. He had fallen into the
habit of withdrawing late in the afternoon to one of the reefs, far
enough away to read and to write quietly. One day, just as he had gone
deep into his book, a shadow fell across it. Startled, he looked up.
Directly over his head, pasted on the sky like a scarlet V, hovered
the "dark one." After his first instant of surprise and a second
interval of perplexity, he put his book down, settled himself back
quietly, and watched. Conscious of his espionage apparently, she flew
away, floated, flew back, floated, flew up, flew down, floated—
always within a little distance. After half an hour of this aerial
irresolution, she sailed off. She repeated her performance the next
afternoon and the next, and the next, staying longer each time. By the
end of the week she was spending whole afternoons there. She, too,
became a regular visitor.
She never spoke. And she scarcely moved. She waved her great
scarlet wings only fast enough to hold herself beyond Frank's reach.
But from that distance she watched his movements, watched closely and
unceasingly, watched with the interest of a child at a moving-picture
show. Her surveillance of him was so intense it seemed impossible that
she could see anything else. But if one of the other four men started
to join them, she became a flash of scarlet lightning that tore the
Frank, of course, found this interesting. Every day he made
voluminous notes of his observations. Every night be embodied these
notes in his monograph.
"What does she look like close to?" the others asked him again and
"Really, I've hardly had a chance to notice yet," was Frank's
invariable answer. "She's a comely young person, I should say, and, as
you can easily see, of the brunette coloring. I'm so much more
interested in her flying than in her appearance that I've never really
taken a good look at her. Unfortunately she flies less well than the
others. I wish I could get a chance to study all of them—the 'quiet
one' in particular; she flies so much faster. On the other hand, this
one seems able to hold herself motionless in the air longer than
"She's lazy," Honey Smith said decisively. "I got that right off.
She looks like a Spanish woman and she is a good deal like one in her
Honey was right; the "dark one" was lazy. Alone she always flew
low, and at no time, even in company, did she dare great altitudes.
She seemed to love to float, wings outspread and eyes half closed, on
one of those tranquil air-plateaux that lie between drifting
air-currents. She was an adept, apparently, at finding the little
nodule of quiet space that forms the center of every windstorm.
Standing upright in it, flaming wings erect, she would whirl through
space like an autumn leaf. Gradually, she became less suspicious of
the other men. She often passed in their direction on the way to her
afternoon vigil with Frank.
"She certainly is one peach of a female," said Ralph Addington. I
don't know but what she's prettier than my blonde. Too bad she's stuck
on that stiff of a Merrill. I suppose he'd sit there every afternoon
for a year and just look at her."
"I should think she came from Andalusia," Honey answered, watching
the long, low sweep of her scarlet flight. "She's got to have a
Spanish name. Say we call her Chiquita."
And Chiquita she became.
Chiquita was beautiful. Her beauty had a highwayman quality of
violence; it struck quick and full in the face. She was the darkest of
all the girls, a raven black. As Lulu was all coppery shine and
shimmer, all satiny gloss and gleam, so Chiquita was all dusk in the
coloring, all velvet in the surfaces. Her great heavy-lidded eyes were
dusk and velvet, with depth on depth of an unmeaning dreaminess. Her
hair, brows, lashes were dusk and velvet; and there was no light in
them. Her skin, a dusky cream on which velvety shade accented velvety
shadow, was colorless except where her lips, cupped like a flower,
offered a splash of crimson. Yet, in spite of the violence of her
beauty, her expression held a tropical languor. Indeed, had not her
flying compelled a superficial vigor from her, she would have seemed
Chiquita wore scarlet always, the exact scarlet of her wings, a
clinging mass of tropical bloom; huge star-shaped or lilly-like
flowers whose brilliant lustre accentuated her dusky coloring.
They had no sooner accustomed themselves to the incongruity of
Frank Merrill's conquest of this big, gorgeous creature than Pete
Murphy developed what Honey called "a case." It was scarcely a
question of development; for with Pete it had been the "thin one" from
the beginning. Following an inexplicable masculine vagary, he
christened her Clara—and Clara she ultimately became. Among
themselves, the men employed other names for her; with them she was
not so popular as with Pete. To Ralph she was "the cat"; to Billy,
"the poser"; to Honey, "Carrots."
Clara appeared first with Lulu. She did not stay long on her
initial visit. But afterwards she always accompanied her friend,
always stayed as late as she.
"I'd pick those two for running-mates anywhere," Ralph said in
private to Honey. "I wish I had a dollar bill for every time I've met
up with that combination, one simple, devoted, self-sacrificing, the
other selfish, calculating, catty."
Clara was not exactly beautiful, although she had many points of
beauty. Her straight red hair clung to her head like a close-fitting
helmet of copper. Her skin balanced delicately between a brown pallor
and a golden sallowness. Her long, black lashes paled her gray eyes
slightly; her snub nose made charming havoc of what, without it, would
have been a conventional regularity of profile. She was really no more
slender than the normal woman, but, compared with her mates, she
seemed of elfin slimness; she was shapely in a supple, long-limbed
way. There was something a little exotic about her. Her green and gold
plumage gave her a touch of the fantastic and the bizarre.
Prevailingly, she arrayed herself in flowers that ran all the shades
from cream and lemon to yellow and orange. She was like a parrot among
more uniformly feathered birds.
Clara never flew high. It was apparent, however, that if she made a
tremendous effort, she could take any height. On the other hand, she
flew more swiftly than either Lulu or Chiquita. She seemed to keep by
preference to the middle altitudes. She hated wind and fog; she
appeared only in calm and dry weather. Perhaps this was because the
wind interfered with her histrionics, the fog with the wavy
complications of her red hair. For she postured as she moved; whatever
her hurry, she presented a picture, absolutely composed. And her hair
was always intricately arranged, always decked with leaves and
"By jiminy, I'd make my everlasting fortune off you," Honey Smith
once addressed her, as she flew over his head, "selling you to the
Wings straight up, legs straight out, arms straight ahead,
delicately slender feet, and strong-looking hands dropping like
flowers, her only answer to this remark was an enigmatic closing of
her thick-lashed lids, a twist into a pose even more sensuously
"Say, I'm tired waiting," Ralph Addington growled one day, when the
lovely trio flew over his head in a group. "Why doesn't that blonde of
mine put in an appearance? Oh, Clara, Lulu, Chiquita," he called,
"won't you bring your peachy friend the next time you call?"
It was a long time, however, before the "peachy one" appeared. Then
suddenly one day a great jagged shadow enveloped them in its purple
coolness. The men looked up, startled. She must have come upon them
slowly and quietly, for she was close. Her mischievous face smiled
alluringly down at them from the wide triangle of her blue wings.
Followed an exhibition of flying which outdid all the others.
Dropping like a star from the zenith and dropping so close and so
swiftly that the men involuntarily scattered to give her landing-room,
she caught herself up within two feet of their heads and bounded
straight up to the zenith again. Up she went, and up and up until she
was only a blue shimmer; and up and up and up until she was only a
dark dot. Then, without warning, again she dropped, gradually this
time, head-foremost like' a diver, down and down and down until her
body was perfectly outlined, down and down and down until she floated
just above their heads.
Coming thus slowly upon them, she gave, for the first time, a close
view of her wonderful blondeness. It was a sheer golden blondeness,
not a hint of tow, or flaxen, or yellow; not a touch of silver, or
honey, or auburn. It was half her charm that the extraordinary
strength and vigor of her contours contrasted with the delicacy and
dewiness of her coloring, that from one aspect, she seemed as frail as
a flower, from another as hard as a crystal. She had, at the same
time, the untouched, unstained beauty of the virgin girl, and the
hard, muscular strength of the virgin boy. Her skin, white as a
lily-petal and as thick and smooth, had been deepened by a single drop
of amber to cream. Her eyes, of which the sculpturesque lids drooped a
little, flashed a blue as limpid as the sky. Teeth, set as close as
seed-pearls, gleamed between lips which were the pink of the faded
rose. The sunlight turned her golden hair to spun glass, melted it to
light itself. The shadow thickened it to fluid, hardened it to massy
gold again. The details of her face came out only as the result of
determined study. Her chief beauty—and it amounted to witchery, to
enchantment—lay in a constant and a constantly subtle change of
During this exhibition the men stood frozen in the exact attitudes
in which she found them. Ralph Addington alone remained master of
himself. He stood quiet, every nerve tense, every muscle alert, the
expression on his face that of a cat watching a bird. At her second
dip downward, he suddenly jumped into the air, jumped so high that his
clutching fingers grazed her finger-tips.
That frightened her.
Her upward flight was of a terrific speed—she leaped into the
sky. But once beyond the danger-line her composure came back. She
dropped on them a coil of laughter, clear as running water,
contemptuous, mischievous. Still laughing, she sank again, almost as
near. Her mirth brought her lids close together. Her eyes, sparkling
between thick files of golden lash, had almost a cruel sweetness.
She immediately flew away, departing over the water. Ralph cursed
himself for the rest of the day. She returned before the week was out,
however, and, after that, she continued to visit them at intervals of
a few days. The sudden note of blue, even in the distance it seemed to
connote coquetry, was the signal for all the men to stop work. They
could not think clearly or consecutively when she was about. She was
one of those women whose presence creates disturbance, perturbation,
unrest. The very sunshine seemed alive, the very air seemed vibrant
with her. Even when she flew high, her shadow came between them and
"She sure qualifies when it comes to fancy flying," said Honey
Smith. "She's in a class all by herself."
Her flying was daring, eccentric, temperamental, the apotheosis of
brilliancy—genius. The sudden dart up, the terrifying drop down
seemed her main accomplishment. The wonder of it was that the men
could never tell where she would land. Did it seem that she was aiming
near, a sudden swoop would bring her to rest on a far-away spot. Was
it certain that she was making for a distant tree-top, an unexpected
drop would land her a few feet from their group. She was the only one
of the flying-girls who touched the earth. And she always led up to
this feat as to the climax of what Honey called her "act." She would
drop to the very ground, pose there, wavering like an enormous
butterfly, her great wings opening and shutting. Sometimes, tempted by
her actual nearness and fooled by her apparent weakness, the five men
would make a rush in her direction. She would stand waiting and
drooping until they were almost on her. Then in a flash came the
tremendous whirr of her start, the violent beat of her whipping
progress—she had become a blue speck.
She wore always what seemed to be gossamer, rose-color in one
light, sky-color in another; a flexible film that one moment defined
the long slim lines of her body and the next concealed them
completely. Near, it could be seen that this drapery was woven of tiny
buds, pink and blue; afar she seemed to float in a shimmering
She teased them all, but it was evident from the beginning that she
had picked Ralph to tease most. After a long while, the others learned
to ignore, or to pretend to ignore, her tantalizing overtures. But
Ralph could look at nothing else while she was about. She loved to
lead him in a long, wild-goose chase across the island, dipping almost
within reach one moment, losing herself at the zenith in another,
alighting here and there with a will-o'-the-wisp capriciousness.
Sometimes Ralph would return in such an exhausted condition that he
dropped to sleep while he ate. At such times his mood was far from
agreeable. His companions soon learned not to address him after these
One afternoon, exercising heroic resolution, Ralph allowed Peachy
to fly, apparently unnoticed, over his head, let her make an
unaccompanied way half across the island. But when she had passed out
of earshot he watched her carefully.
"Say, Honey," he said after half an hour's fidgeting, "Peachy's
settled down somewhere on the island. I should say on the near shore
of the lake. I don't know that anything's happened—probably nothing.
But I hope to God," he added savagely, "she's broken a wing. Come on
and find out what she's up to, will you?"
"Sure!" Honey agreed cheerfully. "All's fair in love and war. And
this seems to be both love and war."
They walked slowly, and without talking, across the beach. When
they reached the trail they dropped on all fours and pulled themselves
noiselessly along. The slightest sound, the snapping of a twig, the
flutter of a bird, brought them to quiet. An hour, they searched
Then suddenly they got sound of her, the languid slap of great
wings opening and shutting. She had not gone to the lake. Instead, she
had chosen for her resting-place one of the tiny pools which, like
pendants of a necklace, partially encircled the main body. She was
sitting on a flat stone that projected into the water. Her drooped
blue wings, glittering with moisture, had finally come to rest; they
trailed behind her over the gray boulder and into a mass of vivid
green water-grasses. One bare shoulder had broken through her
rose-and-blue drapery. The odor of flowers, came from her. Her hair, a
braid over each breast, oozed like ropes of melted gold to her knees.
A hand held each of these braids. She was evidently preoccupied. Her
eyelids were down. Absently she dabbled her white feet in the water.
The noise of her splashing covered their approach. The two men
signaled their plans, separated.
Five minutes went by, and ten and fifteen and twenty. Peachy still
sat silent, moveless, meditative. Not once did she lift her eyelids.
Then Addington leaped like a cat from the bushes at her right.
Simultaneously Honey pounced in her direction from the left.
But—whir-r-r-r—it was like the beating of a tremendous drum.
Straight across the pond she went, her toes shirring the water, and up
and up and up—then off. And all the time she laughed, a delicious,
rippling laughter which seemed to climb every scale that could carry
The two men stood impotently watching her for a moment. Then Honey
broke into roars of delight. "Oh, you kid!" he called appreciatively
to her. "She had her nerve with her to sit still all the time, knowing
that we were creeping up on her, didn't she?" He turned to Ralph.
But Ralph did not answer, did not hear. His face was black with
rage. He shook his fist in Peachy's direction.
Of the flying-girls, there remained now only one who held herself
aloof, the "quiet one." It was many weeks before she visited the
island. Then she came often, though always alone. There was something
in her attitude that marked her off from the others.
"She doesn't come because she wants to," Billy Fairfax explained.
"She comes because she's lonely."
The "quiet one" habitually flew high and kept high, so high indeed
that, after the first excitement of her tardy appearance, none but
Billy gave her more than passing attention. Up to that time Billy had
been a hard, a steady worker. But now he seemed unable to concentrate
on anything. It was doubtless an extra exasperation that the "quiet
one" puzzled him. Her flying seemed to be more than a haphazard way of
passing the time. It seemed to have a meaning; it was almost as if she
were trying to accomplish something by it; and ever she perfected the
figure that her flight drew on the sky. If she soared and dropped, she
dropped and soared. If she curved and floated, she floated and curved.
If she dipped and leaped, she leaped and dipped. All this he could
see. But there were scores of minor evolutions that appeared to him
only as confused motion.
One thing he caught immediately. Those lonely gyrations were not
the exercise of the elusive coquetry which distinguished Peachy. It
was more that the "quiet one" was pushed on by some intellectual or
artistic impulse, that she expressed by the symbols, of her
complicated flight some theory, some philosophy of life, that she
traced out some artless design, some primary pattern of beauty.
Julia always seemed to shine; she wore garments of gleamy-petalled,
white flowers, silvery seaweeds, pellucid marsh-grasses, vines, golden
or purple, that covered her with a delicate lustre. Her wings were
different from the others; theirs flashed color, but hers gave light;
and that light seemed to have run down on her flesh.
"What the thunder is she trying to do up there?" Ralph asked one
day, stopping at Billy's side. Ralph's question was not in reality
begotten so much of curiosity as of irritation. From the beginning the
"quiet one" had interested him least of any of the flying-girls as,
from the beginning, Peachy had interested him most.
"I don't know, of course." Billy spoke with reluctance. It was
evident that he did not enjoy discussing the "quiet one" with Ralph.
"At first my theory was that flying was to her what dancing is to most
girls. But, somehow, it seems to go deeper than that—as if it were
art, or even creation. Anyway, there's a kind of bi-lateral symmetry
about everything she does."
Billy fell into the habit, each afternoon, of strolling away from
the rest, out of sound of their chaff. On the grassy top of one of the
reefs, he found a spot where he could lie comfortably and watch the
"quiet one." He used to spin long day-dreams there. She looked so
remote far up in the boiling blue, and so strange, that he had an
inexplicable sensation of reverence.
Now it was as though, in watching that aerial weaving and
interweaving, he were assisting at a religious rite. He liked it best
when the white day-moon was afloat. If he half-shut his eyes, it
seemed to him that she and the moon made twin crescents of foaming
silver, twin bubbles of white fire, twin films of fairy gossamer, twin
vials that held the very essence of poetry. Somehow he had always
connected her with the moon. Indeed, in her whiteness, her coldness,
her aloofness, she seemed the very sublimation of virginity. His first
secret names for her were Diana and Cynthia. But there was another
quality in her that those names did not include—intellectuality. His
favorite heroes were Julius Caesar and Edwin Booth—a quaint pair,
taken in combination. In the long imaginary conversations which he
held with her he addressed her as Julia or Edwina.
Days and days went by and he could discover no sign that she had
noticed him. It was typical of the "damned gentleman" side of Billy
that he did not try to attract her attention. Indeed, his efforts were
ever to efface himself.
One afternoon, after a long vigil in which, unaccountably, Julia
had not appeared, he started to return to camp. It was a late twilight
and a black, velvety one. The trees against a darkening curtain of sky
had turned to bunches of tangled shadow, the reefs and rocks against
the papery white of the sand to smutches and blobs of soot. Suddenly—
and his heart pounded at the sound—the air began to vibrate and
He stopped short. He waited. His breath came fast; the vibration
and thrill were coming closer.
He crystallized where he stood. It scarcely seemed that he
breathed. And then—.
Something white and nebulous came floating out of the dusk towards
him. It became a silver cloud, a white sculptured spirit of the air.
It became an angel, a fairy, a woman—Julia. She flew not far off,
level with his eyes and, as she approached, she slowed her stately
flight. Billy made no movement. He only stood and waited and watched.
But perhaps never before in his life had his eyes become so
transparently the windows of his soul. Quite as intently, Julia's
eyes, big, gray, and dark-lashed, considered him. It seemed to Billy
that he had never seen in any face so virginally young such a tragic
seriousness, nor in any eyes, superficially so calm, such a troubled
He did not stir until she had drifted out of earshot, had become
again a nebulous silver cloud drifting into the dusk, had merged with
"What makes your eyes shine so?" said Honey, examining him keenly
when he reached camp.
It was the first time Billy had known Julia to fly low. But he
discovered gradually that only in the sunlight did she haunt the
zenith. At twilight she always kept close to the earth. Billy took to
haunting the reefs at dusk.
Again and again, the same thing happened.
Suddenly—and it was as if successive waves of electricity charged
through his body—the quiet air began to purr and vibrate and drum.
Out of the star-shot dusk emerged the speeding whiteness of Julia.
Always, as she approached, she slowed her flight. Always as she
passed, her sorrowing gray eyes would seek his burning blue ones.
Billy could bring himself to speak of this strange experience to
nobody, not even to Honey. For there was in it something untellable,
unsharable, the wonder of the vision and the dream, the unreality of
The excitement of these happenings kept the men entertained, but it
also kept them keyed up to high tension. For a while they did not
notice this themselves. But when they attempted to go back to their
interrupted work, they found it hard to concentrate upon it. Frank
Merrill had given up trying to make them patrol the beach. Unaided,
day and night he attended to their signals.
"Well," said Honey Smith one day and, for the first time, there was
a peevish note in his voice, "that 'natural selection' theory of
yours, Ralph, seems to have worked out to some extent—but not
enough. We seem to be comfortably divided, all ten of us, into happy
couples, but hanged if I'm strong for this long-distance
"You're right there," Ralph Addington admitted; "we don't seem to
be getting any forwarder."
"It's all very pretty and romantic to have these girls flying
about," Honey continued in a grumbling tone, "but it's too much like
flirting with a canary-bird. Damn it all, I want to talk with them."
Ralph made a hopeless gesture. "It is a deadlock, I admit. I'm at
my wits' end."
Perhaps Honey expressed what the others felt. At any rate, a sudden
irascibility broke out among them. They were good-natured enough while
the girls were about, but over their work and during their leisure,
they developed what Honey described as every kind of blue-bean,
sourball, katzenjammer and grouch." They fought heroically against it
- and their method of fighting took various forms, according to the
nature of the four men. Frank Merrill lost himself in his books. Pete
Murphy began the score of an opera vaguely heroic in theme; he wrote
every spare moment. Billy Fairfax worked so hard that he grew thin.
Honey Smith went off on long, solitary walks. Ralph Addington, as
usual, showed an exasperating tendency towards contradiction, an
And then, without warning, all the girls ceased to come to the
island. Three days went by, five, a week, ten days. One morning they
all passed over the island, one by one, an hour or two between
flights; but they flew high and fast, and they did not stop.
Ralph Addington had become more and more irascible. That day the
others maintained peace only by ignoring him.
"By the gods!" he snarled at night as they all sat dull and dumb
about the fire. "Something's got to happen to change our way of living
or murder'll break out in this community. And we'd better begin pretty
quick to do something about it. What I'd like to know is," and he
slapped his hand smartly against a flat rock, "coming down to cases—
as we must sooner or later—what is our right in regard to these
"I don't exactly like your, use of the word right, Ralph," said
Billy. "You mean duty, don't you?"
"And he'd better change that to privilege," put in Pete Murphy,
"Shut up, you mick," Honey interposed, flicking Pete on the ear
with a pebble. "What do you know about machinery?"
Pete grinned and subsided for a moment. Honey could always placate
him by calling him a mick."
"No," Ralph went on obstinately, addressing himself this time to
Billy, "I mean right. Of course, I mean right," he went on with one of
his, gusty bursts of, irritation. "For God's sake, don't be so
high-brow and altruistic."
"How about it, Frank?" Billy said, turning to Merrill.
"Well," said Frank slowly, "I don't exactly know how to answer that
question. I don't know what you mean by the word—right. I take it
that you mean what our right would be if these flying-maidens
permitted themselves to become our friends. I would say, that, in such
a case, you would have the only right that any man ever has, as far as
women are concerned—the right to woo. If he wins, all well and good.
If he loses, he must abide by the consequences."
"You're on, Frank," said Billy Fairfax.
You've said the last word."
"In normal condition, I'd agree with you," Ralph said. "But in
these conditions I disagree utterly."
"How?" Frank asked. "Why?" He turned to Ralph with the instinctive
equability that he always presented to an opponent in argument.
"Well, in the first place, we find ourselves in a, situation
unparalleled in the world's history." Ralph had the air of one who is
saying aloud for the first time what he has said to himself many
times. At any rate, he proceeded with an unusual fluency and glibness.
"Circumstances alter cases. We can't handle this situation by any of
the standards we have formerly known. In fact, we've got to throw all
our former standards overboard. There are five of these girls. There
are five of us. Voila! Following the laws of nature we have selected
each of us the mates we prefer. Or, following the law that Bernard
Shaw discovered, the ladies have selected, each of them, the mates
that they prefer. They are now turning themselves inside out to prove
to us that we selected them. Voila! The rest is obvious. If they come
to terms, all right! If they don't—" He paused. "I repeat that we
are placed in, a situation new in the history of the world. I repeat
the bromidion— circumstances alter cases. We may have to stay on this
island as long as we live. I am perfectly willing to confess that just
now I'd rather not be rescued. But it's over our months that we've
been here. We must think of the future. The future justifies anything.
If these girls don't come to terms, they must be made to come to
terms. You'll find I'm right."
"Right!" exclaimed Billy hotly. "What are you talking about? Those
are the principles of an Apache or a Hottentot."
"Or a cave-man," Pete added.
"Well, what are we under our skins but Hottentots and Apaches and
cave-men?" said Ralph. "Now, I leave it to you. Look facts in the
face. Use your common sense. Count out civilization and all its
artificial rules. Think of our situation on this island, if we don't
capture these women soon. We can't tell when they'll stop coming. We
don't know what the conditions of their life may be. The caprice may
strike them to-morrow to cut us out for good. Maybe their men will
discover it—and prevent them from coming. A lot of things may happen
to keep them away. What's to become of us in that case? We'll go mad,
five men alone here. It isn't as though we could tame them by any
gentle methods. You can't catch eagles by putting salt on their tails.
In the first place, we can't get close enough to them, because of
their accursed wings, to prove that we wouldn't harm them. They've
sent us a challenge—it's a magnificent one. They've thrown down the
gage. And how have we responded? I bet they think we're a precious lot
of molly-coddles! I bet they're laughing in their sleeves all the
time. I'd hate to hear what they say about us. But the point I'm
trying to make is not that. It's this: we can't afford to lose them.
This place is a prison now. It will be worse than that if this keeps
up—it'll be a madhouse."
"Do you mean to tell me that you're advocating marriage by
capture?" Billy asked in an incredulous voice.
"I mean to tell you I'm arguing capture," Ralph said with emphasis.
"After that, you, can trust the marriage question to take care of
Argument broke out hydra-headed. They wrangled the whole evening.
Theory at first guided them. In the beginning, names like Plato,
Nietzsche, Schopenhauer preceded quotation; then, came Shaw,
Havelock-Ellis, Kraft-Ebing, Weininger. Sleep deadened their
discussion temporarily but it burst out at intervals all the next day.
In fact, it seemed to possess eternal vitality, eternal fascination.
Leaving theory, they went for parallels of their strange situation, to
history, to the Scriptures, to fiction, to drama, to poetry.
Honey ended every discussion with a philosophic, "Aside from the
question of brutality, this marriage by capture isn't a sporting
proposition. It's like jacking deer. I'm not for it. And, O Lord,
what's the use of chewing the rag so much about it? Wait a while.
We'll get them yet, I betchu!"
All of Honey's sex-pride flared in this buoyant assurance. It had
apparently not yet occurred to him that he would not conquer Lulu in
the end and conquer her by merely submitting to her wooing of him.
And in the meantime, the voiceless tete-a-teteing of the five
"Say, Ralph," Honey said one day in a calm interval, "it's just
occurred to me that we haven't seen those girls, flying in a bunch for
quite some time. Don't suppose they've quarrelled, do you?"
Everybody stopped work to stare at him. "I bet that's the answer,"
Ralph exclaimed. His voice held the note of one for whom a private
mystification has at last broken.
"But what do you suppose they've quarrelled about?" Pete Murphy
"Me," Honey said promptly.
Ralph laughed absent-mindedly. "It's a hundred to one shot that
they're quarrelling about us, though," he said. For some mysterious
reason this theory raised his spirits perceptibly.
"But—to get down to brass tacks," Pete asked in a puzzled tone,
"what have we done to make them quarrel?"
"Oh, we've done nothing," Ralph answered with one of his lordly
assumptions of a special knowledge. It's just the disorganization that
always falls on women when men appear on their horizon. They're
absolutely without sex-loyalty, you know. They seem to have principle
enough in regard to some things, a few things. But the moment a man
appears, it's all off. West of Suez, they'll lie and steal; east of
Suez, they'll betray and murder as easy as breathe."
"Cut that out, Addington," Pete Murphy commanded in a dangerous
voice. "I won't stand for that kind of talk."
Ralph glared. "Won't stand for it?" he repeated. "I'd like to know
how the hell you're going to help yourself?"
"I'll find a way, and pretty damned quick," Pete retorted.
It was the closest approach to a quarrel that had yet occurred. The
other three men hastily threw themselves into the breach. "Shut up,
you mick," Honey called to Pete. "Remember you came over in the
Pete grinned and subsided.
"As sure as shooting," Honey said, "those girls have quarrelled. I
bet we never see them again."
It was a long time before they saw any of them; but, curiously
enough, the next time the flying-girls visited the island they came in
It had been sultry, the first of a long series of sticky, muggy
days. What threatened to be a thunderstorm and then, as Honey said,
failed to "make good," came up in the afternoon. Just as the sky was
at its blackest, Honey called, "Hurroo! Here they come!"
The effect of the approach of the flying-maidens was so strange as
to make them unfamiliar. There was no sun to pour a liquid iridescence
through their wings. All the high lights of their plumage had dulled.
Painted in flat primary colors, they looked like paper dolls pasted on
the inky thundercloud. As usual, when they came in a group, they wove
in and out in a limited spherical area, achieving extraordinary
effects in close wheeling.
As the girls made for the island, a new impulse seized Honey. He
ran down the beach, dashed into the water, swam out to meet them.
"Come back, you fool!" Frank yelled.
There may be sharks in that water.
But Honey only laughed. He was a magnificent swimmer. He seemed
determined to give, in an alien element, an exhibition which would
equal that of the flying-girls. The effect on them was immediate; they
broke ranks and floated, watching every move.
To hold their interest, Honey nearly turned himself inside out.
At first he tore the water white with the vigor of his
trudgeon-stroke. Then turning from left to right, he employed the
side-stroke. From that, he went to the breast-stroke. Last of all, he
floated, dove, swam under water so long that the girls began uneasily
to fly back and forth, to twitter with alarm.
Finally he emerged and floated again.
"He swims like a motor-boat!" said Ralph admiringly.
Suddenly Lulu fluttered away from her companions, dropped so low
that she could have touched Honey with her hand, and flew protectingly
The men on the beach watched these proceedings with a gradual
diminution of their alarm, with the admiration that Honey in the water
always excited, with the amusement that Lulu's fearless display of
infatuation always developed.
"Oh, my God!" Frank called suddenly. "There's a shark!"
Simultaneously, the others saw what he saw—a sinister black
triangle swiftly shearing the water. They ran, yelling, down to the
water's edge and stood there trying to shout a warning over the noise
of the surf.
Honey did not get it at once. He was still floating, his smiling,
up-turned face looking into Lulu's smiling, down-turned one. Then,
rolling over, he apparently caught a glimpse of the black fin bearing
so steadily on him. He made immediately for the shore but he had swum
far and fast.
Lulu was slower even than he in realizing the situation. For a
moment, obviously piqued at his action, she dropped and hung in the
rear. Perhaps her mates signaled to her, perhaps her intuition flashed
the warning. Suddenly she looked back. The scream which she emitted
was as shrill with terror as any wingless woman's. Swooping down like
an eagle, she seized Honey under the shoulders, lifted him out of the
water. His weight crippled her. For though the first impulse of her
terror carried her high, she sank at once until Honey hung just above
And continuously she screamed.
The other girls realized her plight in an instant. They dropped
like stones to her side, eased her partially of Honey's weight. Julia
alone did not touch him. She floated above, calling directions. The
group of girls arose gradually, flew swiftly over the water toward the
beach. The men ran to meet them.
"Don't go any further," Billy commanded in a peremptory voice
unusual with him. "They'll not put him down if we come too near."
The men hesitated, stopped.
Immediately the girls deposited Honey on the sand.
"Did you notice the cleverness of that breakaway?" said Pete. "He
couldn't have got a clinch in anywhere."
But to do Honey justice, he attempted nothing of the sort. He lay
flat and still until his rescuers were at a safe height. Then he sat
up and smiled radiantly at them. "Ladies, I thank you," he said.
"And I'll see that you get a Carnegie medal if it takes the rest of
my life. I guess," he remarked unabashed, as his companions joined
him, "it will be fresh-water swimming for your little friend
Nobody spoke for a while. His companions were still white and Billy
Fairfax even shook.
"You looked like an engraving that used to hang over my bed when I
was a child," said Ralph, with an attempt at humor that had, coming
from him, a touching quality, "a bunch of, angels lugging a dead man
to heaven. You'd have been a ringer for it if you'd had a shave."
"Well, the next time the girls come, I'm going to swim out among
the pretty sharks," said Pete, obviously trying to echo Ralph's light
note. "By Jove, hear them chatter up there. They're talking all at
once and at the top of their lungs just like your sisters and your
cousins and your aunts."
"They're as pale as death, too," observed Billy. "Look at that!"
The flying-maidens had come together in a compact circular group,
hands over each other's shoulders, wings faintly fluttering.
Perceptibly they clung to each other for support. Their faces had
turned chalky; their heads drooped. Intertwined thus, they drifted out
"Lord, they are beautiful, close-to!" Honey said. "You never saw
such complexions! Or such eyes and teeth! And—and—by George, such
an effect of purity and stainlessness. I feel like a—and yet, by—
." He fell into an abstraction so deep that it was as though he had
forgotten his companions.
For several days, the girls did not appear on Angel Island. All
that time, the capture argument lay in abeyance. Even Ralph, who had
introduced the project, seemed touched by the gallantry of Honey's
rescue. Honey, himself, was strangely subdued; his eternal monologue
had dried up; he seemed preoccupied. Nevertheless, it was he, who, one
night, reopened the discussion with a defiant flat: "Well, boys, I
might as well tell you, I've swung over to Ralph's side. I'm for the
capture of those girls, and capture as soon as we can make it."
"Well, I'll be—" said Billy. "After they saved your life! Honey,
I guess I don't know you any more."
"What's changed you?" Pete asked in amazement.
"Can't tell you why—don't know myself why when you get the answer
tell me. Only in the ten minutes that those girls packed me through
the air, I did some quick thinking, I can't explain to you why we've
got the right to capture them. But we have. That's all there is to
War broke out with a new animosity; for they had, of course, now
definitely divided into sides. Their conversation always turned into
argument now, no matter how peaceably and innocently it began.
The girls had begun to visit the island again, singly now, singly
always. Discussion died down temporarily and the wordless
tete-a-teteing began again. Lulu hovered ever at Honey's shoulder.
Clara postured always within Pete's vision. Chiquita took up her
eternal vigil on Frank's reef. Peachy discovered new wonders of what
Honey called "trick flying." Julia became a fixed white star in their
blue noon sky.
A day or two or three of this long-distance wooing, and argument
exploded more vehemently than ever. Honey and Ralph still maintained
that, as the ruling sex of a man-managed world, they had the right of
discovery to these women. Frank still maintained that, as a
supra-human race, the flying-girls were subject to supra-human laws.
Billy and Pete still maintained that, as the development not only of
the race but of the individual depended on the treatment of the female
by the male, the capture of these independent beings at this stage of
civilization would be a return to barbarism.
After one night of wrangling, they came to the agreement that no
one of them would take steps towards capture until all five had
consented to it. They drew up a paper to this effect and signed it.
Their cabins were nearly completed now. Boundless leisure
threatened to open before them. More and more in the time which they
were alone they fell into the habits which their individual tastes
developed. Frank still worked on his library. He had transferred the
desk and the bookcases to the interior of his hut. He spent all his
spare time there arranging, classifying, and cataloguing his books.
Billy fell into an orgy of furniture-making and repairing. Addington
began, unaided, to build a huge cabin, bigger than the others, and
separated a little distance from them. Nobody asked him what it was
for. Honey took long solitary walks into the interior of the island.
He returned with great bunches of uprooted flowers which he planted
against the cabin-walls. Pete dragged out from an unexplored trunk a
box of water-colors, a block of paper. Now, when he was not working on
a symphonic poem, he was coping with the wonders of the semi-tropical
coloring. His companions rallied and harried him, especially about the
poem; but he could always silence them with a threat to read it aloud.
All the Celt in him had come to the surface. They heard him chanting
his numbers in the depths of the forest; sometimes he intoned them,
swinging on the branch of a high tree. He even wandered over the
reefs, reciting them to the waves.
One day, late in the afternoon, Billy lay on his favorite spot on
the southern reef, dreaming. High up in the air, Julia flashed and
gyrated, revolved and spun. It seemed to Billy that he had never seen
her go so high. She looked like a silver feather. But as he looked,
she went higher and higher, so high that she disappeared vertically.
A strange sense of loneliness fell on Billy. This was the first
time since she had begun to come regularly to the island that she had
cut their tryst short. He waited. She did not appear. A minute went
by. Another and another and another. His sense of loneliness deepened
to uneasiness. Still there was no sign of Julia. Uneasiness became
alarm. Ah, there she was at last—a speck, a dot, a spot, a splotch.
How she was flying! How—.
Like a bullet the conviction struck him.
She was falling!
Memories of certain biplanic explorations surged into his mind.
"She's frozen," he thought to himself. "She can't move her wings!"
Terror paralyzed him; horror bound him. He stood still-numb, dumb,
Down she came like an arrow. Her wings kept straight above her
head, moveless, still. He could see her breast and shoulders heave and
twist, and contort in a fury of effort. Underneath her were the trees.
He had a sudden, lightning-swift vision of a falling aviator that he
had once seen. The horror of what was coming turned his blood to ice.
But he could not move; nor could he close his eyes.
"Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!" he groaned. And, finally, "Oh, thank
Julia's wings were moving. But apparently she still had little
control of them. They flapped frantically a half-minute; but they had
arrested her fall; they held her up. They continued to support her,
although she beat about in jagged circles. Alternately floating and
fluttering, she caught on an air-current, hurled herself on it,
floated; then, as though she were sliding through some gigantic pillar
of quiet air, sank earthwards. She seized the topmost bough of one of
the high trees, threw her arms across it and hung limp. She panted; it
seemed as if her breasts must burst. Her eyes closed; but the tears
streamed from under her eyelids.
Billy ran close. He made no attempt to climb the tree to which she
clung, so weakly accessible. But he called up to her broken words of
assurance, broken phrases of comfort that ended in a wild harangue of
love and entreaty.
After a while her breath came back. She pulled herself up on the
bough and sat huddled there, her eyelids down, her silvery fans
drooping, the great mass of her honey-colored hair drifting over the
green branches, her drapery of white lilies, slashed and hanging in
tatters, the tears still streaming. Except for its ghastly whiteness,
her face showed no change of expression. She did not sob or moan, she
did not even speak; she sat relaxed. The tears stopped flowing
gradually. Her eyelids lifted. Her eyes, stark and dark in her white
face, gazed straight down into Billy's eyes.
And then Billy knew.
He stood moveless staring up at her; never, perhaps, had human eyes
asked so definite a question or begged so definite a boon.
She sat moveless, staring straight down at him. But her eyes
continued to withhold all answer, all reassurance.
After a while, she stirred and the spell broke. She opened and shut
her wings, half a dozen times before she ventured to leave her perch.
But once, in the air, all her strength, physical and mental, seemed to
come back. She shook the hair out of her eyes. She pulled her drapery
together. For a moment, she lingered near, floating, almost moveless,
white, shining, carved, chiseled: like a marvelous piece of aerial
sculpture. Then a flush of a delicate dawn-pink came into her white
face. She caught the great tumbled mass of hair in both hands, tied it
about her head. Swift as a flash of lightning, she turned, wheeled,
soared, dipped. And for the first time, Billy heard her laugh. Her
laughter was like a child's—gleeful. But each musical ripple thrust
like a knife into his heart.
He watched her cleave the distance, watched her disappear. Then,
suddenly, a curious weakness came over him. His head swam and he could
not see distinctly. Every bone in his body seemed to repudiate its
function; his flexed muscles slid him gently to the earth. Time
passed. After a while consciousness came back. His dizziness ceased.
But he lay for a long while, face downward, his forehead against the
cool moss. Again and again that awful picture came, the long, white,
girl-shape shooting earthwards, the ghastly, tortured face, the
frenzied, heaving shoulders. It was to come again many times in the
next week, that picture, and for years to make recurrent horror in his
He returned to the camp white, wrung, and weak. Apparently his
companions had been busy at their various occupations. Nobody had seen
Julia's fall; at least nobody mentioned it. After dinner, when the
nightly argument broke into its first round, he was silent for a
while. Then, "Oh, I might as well tell you, Frank, and you, Pete," he
said abruptly, "that I've gone over to the other side. I'm for
capture, friendship by capture, marriage by capture—whatever you
choose to call it—but capture."
The other four stared at him. "What's happened to you and Ju—"
Honey began. But he stopped, flushing.
Billy paid no attention to the bitten-off end of Honey's question.
"Nothing's happened to me," he lied simply and directly. "I don't know
why I've changed, but I have. I think this is a case where the end
justifies the means. Women don't know what's best for them. We do.
Unguided, they take the awful risks of their awful ignorance.
Moreover, they are the conservative sex. They have no conscious
initiative. These flying-women, for instance, have plenty of physical
courage but no mental or moral courage. They hold the whip-hand, of
course, now. Anything might happen to them. This situation will
prolong itself indefinitely unless—unless we beat their cunning by
our strategy." He paused. "I don't think they're competent to take
care of themselves. I think it's our duty to take care of them. I
think the sooner—." He paused again. "At the same time, I'm prepared
to keep to our agreement. I won't take a step in this matter until
we've all come round to it."
"If it wasn't for their wings," Honey said.
Billy shuddered violently. "If it wasn't for their wings," he
Frank bore Billy's defection in the spirit of classic calm with
which he accepted everything. But Pete could not seem to reconcile
himself to it. He was constantly trying to draw Billy into debate.
"I won't argue the matter, Pete," Billy said again and again. " I
can't argue it. I don't pretend even to myself that I'm reasonable or
logical, or just or ethical. It's only a feeling or an instinct. But
it's too strong for me. I can't fight it. It's as if I'd taken a
journey drugged and blindfolded. I don't know how I got on this side—
but I'm here."
The effect of this was to weaken a little the friendship that had
grown between Billy and Pete. Also Honey pulled a little way from
Ralph and slipped nearer to his old place in Billy's regard.
But now there were three warring elements in camp. Honey, Ralph,
and Billy hobnobbed constantly. Frank more than ever devoted himself
to his reading. Pete kept away from them all, writing furiously most
of the day.
"We're going to have a harder time with him than with Frank," Billy
"I guess we can leave that matter to take care of itself," Ralph
said with one of his irritating superior smiles. "How about it,
"Surest thing you know," Honey answered reassuringly. All you've
got to do is wait—believe muh!"
"It does seem as if we'd waited pretty long," Honey himself fumed
two weeks later, "I say we three get together and repudiate that
"That would be dishonorable," Billy said, "and foolish. You can see
for yourself that we cannot stir a step in this matter without
co-operation. As opponents, Pete and Frank could warn the girls off
faster than we could lure them on."
"That's right, too," agreed Honey. "But I'm damned tired of this,"
he added drearily. "Not more tired than we are," said Billy.
An incident that varied the monotony of the deadlock occurred the
next day. Pete Murphy packed up food and writing materials and,
without a word, decamped into the interior. He did not return that
day, that night, or the next day, or the next night.
"Say, don't you think we ought to go after him," Billy said again
and again, "something may have happened."
And, "No!" Honey always answered. "Trust that Dogan to take care of
himself. You can't kill him."
Pete worked gradually across the island to the other side. There
the beach was slashed by many black, saw-toothed reefs. The sea leaped
up upon them on one side and the trees bore down upon them on the
other. The air was filled with tumult, the hollow roar of the waves,
the strident hum of the pines. For the first day, Pete entertained
himself with exploration, clambering from one reef to another, pausing
only to look listlessly off at the horizon, climbing a pine here and
there, swinging on a bough while he stared absently back over the
island. But although his look fixed on the restless peacock glitter of
the sea, or the moveless green cushions that the massed trees made, it
was evident that it took no account of them; they served only the more
closely to set his mental gaze on its half-seen vision.
The second morning, he arose, bathed, breakfasted, lay for an hour
in the sun; then drew pencil and paper from his pack. He wrote
furiously. If he looked up at all, it was only to gaze the more
fixedly inwards. But mainly his head hung over his work.
In the midst of one of these periods of absorption, a flower fell
out of the air on his paper. It was a brilliant, orange-colored
tropical bloom, so big and so freshly plucked that it dashed his verse
with dew. For an instant he stared stupidly at it. Then he looked up.
Just above him, not very high, her green-and-gold wings spread
broad like a butterfly's, floated Clara. Her body was sheathed in
green vines, delicately shining. Her hair was wreathed in fluttering
yellow orchid-like flowers, her arms and legs wound with them. She was
flying lower than usual. And, under her wreath of flowers, her eyes
looked straight into his.
Pete stared at her stupidly as he had stared at the flower. Then he
frowned. Deliberately he dropped his eyes. Deliberately he went on
Whir-r-r-r-r! Pete looked up again. Clara was beating back over the
island, a tempest of green-and-gold.
Again, he concentrated on his work.
Pete wrote all the rest of the day and by firelight far into the
night. He wrote all the next morning. In the middle of the afternoon,
a seashell struck his paper, glanced off.
It was Clara again.
This time, apparently, she had come from the ocean. Sea-kelp, still
glistening with brine, encased her close as with armor. A little
pointed cap of kelp covered her tawny hair as with a helmet. That gave
her a piquant quality of boyishness. She was flying lower than he had
ever seen her, and as Pete's eyelids came up she dropped nearer, threw
herself into one of her sinuous poses, arms and legs outstretched
close, hands and feet cupped, wrists, ankles, hips, shoulders all
moving. She looked straight down into Pete's eyes; and this time she
Pete stared for another long moment. Then as though summoning all
his resolution, he withdrew his eyes, nailed them to his paper. Clara
peppered him with shells and pebbles; but he continued to ignore her.
He did not look up again until a whir-r-r-r-r—loud at first but
steadily diminishing—apprised him of her flight.
Pete again wrote the rest of the day and by firelight far into the
night. In the middle of the morning he stopped suddenly, weighted his
paper down with a stone, rolled over on to the pine-needles, and fell
immediately into a deep sleep. He lay for hours, his face down,
resting on his arm.
Pete awoke with a start. His manuscript was gone. He leaped to his
feet, stared wildly about. Not far off Clara was flying, almost on the
ground. As he watched, she ascended swiftly. She held his poem in her
hands. She studied it, her head bent. She did not once look up or
back; her eyes still jealously glued to the pencil-scratchings, she
drifted out to sea, disappeared.
Pete did not move. He watched Clara intently until she melted into
the sky. But as he watched, his creative mood broke and evaporated.
And suddenly another emotion, none the less fiercely ravaging, sluiced
the blood into his face, filled his eyes with glitter, shook him as
though a high wind were blowing, sent him finally speeding at a
maniacal pace over the reefs.
"Say, do you think we'd better organize a search-party?" Honey
"Not yet," said Ralph, "here he comes."
Pete was running down the trail like a deer.
"I've finished my poem," he yelled jubilantly.
"Every last word of it. And now, boys," he added briskly before
they could recover their breath, I'm with you on this capture
For an instant, the others stared and blinked. "What do you mean,
Pete?" Honey asked stupidly, after an instant.
"Well, I'm prepared to go as far as you like."
"But what changed you? " Honey persisted.
"Oh, hang it all," Pete said and never had his little black, fiery
Irish face so twisted with irritation, so flamed with spirit, "a
poet's so constituted that he's got to have a woman round to read his
verse to. I want to teach Clara English so she can hear that poem."
There was a half-minute of silence. Then his listeners broke into
roars. "You damned little mick you!" Honey said. He laughed at
intervals for an hour.
They immediately broke the news of Pete's desertion to Merrill.
Frank received it without any appearance of surprise. But he
announced, with a sudden boom of authority in his big voice, that he
expected them all to stand by their agreement. Billy answered for the
rest that they had no intention of doing anything else. But the four
were now in high spirits. Among themselves, they no longer said, "If
we capture them," but "When we capture them."
The stress of the situation at once pulled Frank away from his
books. Again he took complete charge of the little group. He was a
natural disciplinarian, as they had learned at the time of the wreck.
Now his sense of responsibility developed a severity that was almost
austerity. He kept them constantly at work. In private the others
chafed at his tone of authority. But in his presence they never failed
of respect. Besides, his remarkable unselfishness compelled their
esteem, a shy vein of innocent, humorless sweetness their affection.
"Old Frank" they always called him.
One afternoon, Frank started on one of the long walks which
latterly he had abandoned. He left three of his underlings behind.
Pete painted a water-color; Clara, weaving back and forth, watched his
progress. Ralph worked on the big cabin—they called it the Clubhouse
- Peachy whirling back and forth in wonderful air-patterns for his
benefit. A distant speck of silver indicated Julia; Billy must be on
the reef. Honey had left camp fifteen minutes before for the solitary
afternoon tramp that had become a daily habit with him.
Frank's path lay part-way through the jungle. For half an hour he
walked so sunk in thought that he glanced neither to the right nor the
left. Then he stopped suddenly, held by some invisible, intangible,
impalpable force. He listened. The air hummed delicately, hummed with
an alien element, hummed with something that was neither the susurrus
of insects nor the music of birds. He moved onward slowly and quietly.
The hum grew and strengthened. It became a sound. It divided into
component parts, whistlings, trillings, twitterings, callings.
Bird-like they were—but they could come only from the human throat.
Impersonal they were—and yet they were sexed, female and male. Frank
looked about him carefully. A little distance away, the trail sent off
a tiny feeler into the jungle. It dipped into one of the pretty glades
which diversified the flatness of the island. Creeping slowly, Frank
followed the sound.
Half-way down the slope, Honey Smith was standing, staring upwards.
In his virile, bronzed semi-nudity, he might have been a god who had
emerged for the first time into the air from the woods at his back.
His lips were open and from them came sound.
Above him, almost within reach, Lulu floated, gazing downward. She
had a listening look; and she listened fascinated. She seemed to lie
motionless on the air. It was the first time that Merrill had seen
Lulu so close. But in some mysterious way he knew that there was
something abnormal about her. Her piquant Kanaka face shone with a
strange emotion. Her narrow eyes were big with wonder; her blood-red
lips had trembled open. She stared at Honey as if she were seeing him
from a new angle. She stared, but sound came from her parted lips.
It was Honey who whistled and called. It was Lulu who twittered and
trilled. No mating male bird could have put more of entreating
tenderness into his voice. No mating female bird could have answered
with more perplexity of abandon.
For a moment Frank stared. Then, with a sudden sense of
eavesdropping, he moved noiselessly back until he struck the main
He kept on until he came to the shady side of his favorite reef. He
took from his pocket a book and began to read. To his surprise and
discomfort, he could not get into it. Something psychological kept
coming between him and the printed page. He tried to concentrate on a
paragraph, a sentence, a phrase. It was like eating granite. It was
like drinking dust. He stared at the words, but they seemed to float
off the page.
That, then, was what all the other four men were doing while he was
reading and writing, or while, with narrowed, scrutinizing eyes, he
followed Chiquita's languid flight. He had not seen Chiquita for a
week; he had been so busy getting the first part of his monograph into
shape that he had not come to the reef. And all that week, the other
men had been -. A word from the university slang came into his mind—
twosing— came into it with a new significance. How descriptive that
word was! How concrete! Twosing!
He took up his book again. He glued his eyes to the print. Five
minutes passed; he was gazing at the same words. But now instead of
floating off the page, they engaged in little dances, dizzyingly
concentric. Suddenly something that was not of the mind interposed
another obstacle to concentration, a jagged, purple shadow.
It was Chiquita.
Frank leaped to his feet and stood staring. The quickness of his
movement—ordinarily he moved measuredly—frightened her. She
fluttered, drifted away, paused. Frank stiffened. His immobility
reassured her. She drifted nearer. Something impelled Frank to hold
his rigid pose. But, for some unaccustomed reason, his hand trembled.
His book dropped noiselessly on to the soft grass.
Chiquita floated down, closer than ever before.
She had undoubtedly just waked up. The dew of dreams still lay on
her luscious lips and in her great black eyes. Scarlet flowers,
flat-petaled, black-stamened, wreathed her dusky hair. Scarlet bands
outlined her dusky shoulders. Scarlet streamers trailed in her wake.
Never had she seemed more lazy and languid, more velvety and
voluptuous, more colorful and sumptuous.
Frank stared and stared. Then, following an inexplicable impulse,
he whistled as he had heard Honey whistle; and called as he had heard
Honey call, the plaintive, entreating note of the mating male bird.
The same look which had come into Lulu's face came into Chiquita's,
a look of wonder and alarm and -. She trembled, but she sank slowly,
head foremost like a diver.
Frank continued softly to call and whistle. After an interval,
another mysterious instinct impelled him to stop. Chiquita's lips
moved; from them came answering sound, faint, breathy, scarcely voiced
but exquisitely musical, exquisitely feminine, the call of the mating
When she stopped, Frank took it up. He raised his hand to her
gently. As if that gave her confidence, she floated nearer, so close
that he could have touched her. But some new wisdom taught him not to
do that. She sank lower and lower until she was just above him. Frank
did not move— nor speak now. She fluttered and continued to sink. Now
he could look straight into her eyes. Frank had never really looked
into a woman's eyes before. The depth of Chiquita's was immeasurable.
There were dreams on the surface. But his gaze pierced through the
dreams, through layer on layer of purple black, to where stars lay.
Some emotion that constantly grew in her seemed to melt and fuse all
these layers; but the stars still held their shine.
Slowly still, but as though at the urge of a compelled abandon,
Chiquita sank lower and lower. Nearer she came and nearer. The pollen
from the flowers at her breast sifted on to his face. Now their eyes
were level. And now -.
She kissed him.
Billy, Ralph, and Pete sat on the sand bantering Honey, who had
returned in radiant spirits from his walk.
"Here comes old Frank," Billy said. "He's running. But he's
staggering. By George, I should think he was drunk."
Frank was drunk, but not with wine. When he came nearer, they saw
that his face was white.
"You're right boys," he said quietly, "and I'm wrong." For a
moment, he added nothing; but they knew what he meant. "A situation
like this is special; it requires special laws. It's the masculine
right of eminent domain. I give my consent—I—I—I—I agree to
anything you want to do."
"The question before the house now is," said Ralph, "how are we
going to do it? Myself, I'd be strong for winging them sometime when
they're flying low."
The other four men burst into shocked remonstrance.
"Well, don't go up in the air," Ralph said in an amused voice. "It
wouldn't hurt them any. And it seems to me if we've definitely made up
our minds to capture them, the best way is the swiftest and surest."
"But to shoot a woman!" Pete exclaimed.
"Well, don't worry," Ralph answered him, "we haven't any guns. I
did think of bows and arrows, though." He said this in the tone of one
who throws out a suggestion and he stopped to study the faces of his
fellow conspirators. Equally they expressed horror and disgust. "All
right," he said with equanimity. "I see you're like all human nature.
You're determined to pull off this caveman stunt, but you want to do
it with every appearance of chivalry and generosity. You're saving
face. All right! I'm agreeable—although personally I think the
quickest way the most merciful. Has anybody a better plan? "
Nobody had. It was obvious, though, from the talk that followed,
that they had all been secretly considering the matter.
"The only thing for us to do," Honey said at once, "is to lie in
wait. Conceal ourselves in the bushes and leap out on them."
"That sounds easy," Ralph said. "But has it occurred to you that
these girls have the ears of wild animals? Has it occurred to you that
they have all the instincts and cunning of the animal and all the
intuition and prescience of the woman? Has it occurred to you that
they always approach from above?"
"The only thing I can think of," said Billy, "is to lasso them.
Only we've got to get them to alight and walk round first. But either
they can't walk or they don't like to walk. We must off offer them
some bait. Now, what in thunder would tempt a creature that's
one-third woman, one-third bird, and one-third angel to come down to
For a moment they were all silent considering this question. "By
Jove," Ralph burst out finally, "what are we all sitting here like
dopes for? Those trunks are full of women's clothes. Did you ever see
a woman yet who wouldn't fall for ribbons and laces?"
"Good shot!" exclaimed Honey. "Let's go through the women-truck
to-morrow and pick out some things that would please a girl. We'll put
them on the beach a good distance off from us, so they'll not think
it's a trap. If we do that every day for a week or two they'll get
accustomed to walking round while we're working. It's our play to take
no notice of them whatever."
"That's the answer," Ralph said in a tone of satisfaction.
Immediately after breakfast, the next morning, they made for the
file of trunks so contemptuously rejected the first week of their
stay. Honey, who was always head and shoulders in front of the others,
broke open the first one.
"By jiminy, boys!" he shouted, seizing something that lay on top
and waving it over his head, "we've got them on the go-off. By
George," he went on, lowering his voice, "I bet that belonged to some
darned pretty woman."
The men crowded about him; and, as they examined his find, their
faces softened. Nothing could more subtly have emanated femininity. It
was a hand-mirror of silver. Two carved Cupids held the glass between
them. Their long wings made the handle.
"Put it down there on the hard sand," Ralph said, "where they can't
fail to see it."
"Hold!" exclaimed Honey in a tone of burlesque warning. "There must
be five mirrors. He knows nothing of women who thinks that one mirror
may be divided among five girls. I hope Lulu cops this one."
His companions did not laugh. Apparently they were impressed with
the sapience of his remark. They searched the trunks until they had
gathered the five that Honey demanded. They placed them in a row just
above the high-water line. The mirrors caught the sunlight, reflected
"They won't do a thing to those girls," said Honey. There was the
glee in his voice of a little boy who is playing a practical joke.
The girls came in a group in the middle of the afternoon.
"They've spotted them already," said Honey.
"Trust a woman and a looking-glass."
The discovery ruined discipline; it broke ranks; the five girls
flew high, flew low, flew separated, flew grouped, crowded about
Julia, obviously asking her advice. Obviously she gave it; for
following her quick, clear tones of advice came a confused chattering
- remonstrance. Then Peachy, Clara, Chiquita, and Lulu dropped a
little. Julia alone came no nearer. She alone showed no excitement.
The men meantime watched. They could not, as they had so loftily
resolved, pretend to ignore the situation. But they kept silent and
still. Once or twice the girls glanced curiously in their direction.
But in the main they ignored them. Descending in big, slow, cautious,
sliding curves, they circled nearer and nearer the sand.
Suddenly Lulu screamed. Still screaming, she bounded—it was
almost that she bounced—straight up. The others streamed to the
zenith in the wake of her panic, caught up, closed about her. There
floated down the shrillness of agitated question and answer.
"What the Hades—" Ralph said in a mystified tone.
"I've got it," said Honey. "She caught a look at herself in one of
the mirrors and she's scared. Don't be afraid, Lulu," he called in a
reassuring tone; "it won't hurt you."
Lulu evidently got what he intended to convey. Again she sank
slowly, hovered an instant close to the sand, brought her face near to
a mirror, bounced up, dipped down, brought her face nearer, fluttered,
put out one hand, withdrew it, put out the other, withdrew it, put out
both, seized a mirror firmly, darted to the zenith.
"Well, what do you know about that!" said Billy. And, "Oh, the
angels!" exclaimed Pete. Ralph's face opened in the fatuous grin which
always meant satisfaction with him. Honey turned somersaults of
delight. Even Frank twinkled.
For, high up in the heaven, five heads positively bumped over the
meager oval of silver.
Lulu finally pulled out of the crowd and flew away. But all the
time she held the mirror straight before her, clasped tightly in two
hands, ecstatically "eating herself up" as Honey described it.
The men continued to watch.
Gradually, one after another, the other four girls fell under the
lure of their vanity and their acquisitiveness.
Clara dove first, clutched a long-handled oval of yellow celluloid.
Next Chiquita swam lazily downward, made a brief scarlet flutter on
the beach, seized an elaborate double mirror set in gilded wood.
Peachy followed; she chose a heart-shaped glass, ebony-framed. Last of
all, Julia came floating slowly down. She took the only one that was
left: it was, of course, the smallest; it was framed in carved ivory.
For the next ten minutes, the sky presented a picture of five
winged women, stationed at various points of the compass, ecstatically
studying their own beautiful faces in mirrors held in their white,
Then, flying together again, they discovered that the mirrors
reflected. At first, this created panic, then amusement. Ensued a
delicious girl-frolic. Darting through the air, laughing, jabbering,
they played tag, throwing the light into each other's eyes. A little
later Peachy gathered them into a bunch and whispered instructions.
Immediately they began flashing the mirrors into the men's faces. To
escape this bombardment, their victims had finally to throw themselves
face downward on the sand.
In the midst of this excitement came disaster.
Lulu dropped her mirror.
It hit square and shattered on the sand to many brilliant
splinters. Lulu fell like a stone, seized the empty frame, gazed into
it for a heart-broken second, burst into tears.
It was the first time that the men as a group had ever seen in the
flying-girls an exhibition of this feminine faculty. For a moment,
they watched her, deeply interested, as though confronted by an
unfamiliar phenomenon. Then Billy wriggled.
"Say, stop her, somebody," he begged, "I hate to hear a woman cry."
"So do I," said Peter, his face twisted into creases of discomfort.
"She's your girl, Honey. Stop her, for God's sake."
"How's he going to stop her, I'd like to know?" demanded Ralph. "We
don't converse very fluently yet, you know."
"Well, I know how to stop her," said Honey, leaping up. "I say,
Lulu," he called. "Stop that crying, that's a good girl. It makes us
all sick. I'll find you another mirror in a moment."
Lulu did not stop crying. Perhaps she was not too primitive to
realize that tears are the argument a woman negotiates best. She
wailed and wept assiduously.
Honey, in the meantime, flew to the trunks. He dumped one after
another; clothes flew from either energetic hand like gravel from a
shovel. Suddenly he gave a yell of triumph and brandished—. It was
cheap and brass-bound, but it reflected the sunlight as well as though
it had been framed in massy gold.
"Here you are, Lulu!" he called. He ran down the beach and held it
up to her. Lulu caught the reflection. She dropped sheer. In her
eagerness, she took it from Honey's very hand. And as she seized it, a
tear dropped on his upturned cheek. And as the tear dropped, her face
broke into smiles.
"Well," exclaimed Ralph an instant later, "if I'd had any idea that
they were angels and not females, this would settle the question for
me. Good Lord! Well, you have got a temper, my lady."
It was of Julia he spoke.
For, descending slowly and deliberately, Julia hovered an instant
above a big rock. Then, with a tremendous slashing impulse of a
powerful arm, she hurled her mirror on it. She flew in a very frenzy
of haste into the west.
The girls returned the next morning early.
"After the graft," Ralph commented cynically.
Honey had been rifling the trunks again. He walked down to the
beach with an armful of fans, piled them there, returned to camp. The
girls descended, eyed them, ascended, gathered together, talked,
descended, ascended again.
"What's the row?" Billy asked.
"They don't know what they're for," said Pete. He ran down on to
the beach, seized a fan of feathers, opened it, and stood fanning
himself. Then he put it down and ran back.
He had hardly returned to the group of men when Chiquita swooped
down and seized the fan that he had dropped. The feathers were the
exact scarlet of her wings. She floated about, fanning herself slowly,
her teeth flashing white in her dusky face.
"By jiminy, if she only had a mantilla, she'd be a Spanish angel,"
Billy commented whimsically.
The other girls dropped down after a while and seized a fan, or in
Clara's case two, and Peachy's three. They sailed off into the west,
fanning themselves slowly.
"Say, we've got to have our ammunition all ready the next time they
come," said Ralph. "I bet they're here this afternoon. They've never
had any of these lover-like little attentions, apparently. And they're
falling for them so quick that it's fairly embarrassing. Pete, you'll
have to be muckraking this island before we get through."
In their search for what Honey called "bait," they came across a
trunk filled with scarfs of various descriptions; gauze, satin,
chiffon; embroidered, sequined, fringed; every color, fabric, and
decoration; every shape and size. "Drummers' samples!" Honey
"I tell you what we'll do now," Ralph suggested. "Put the first
five scarfs on the beach where they can get them. But if they want any
more, make them take them from our hands. Be careful, though, not to
frighten them. One move in their direction and we'll undo everything
As Ralph prophesied, the girls came again that day, but they waited
until after sunset. It was full-moon night, however; the island was as
white as day. They must have seen the gay-colored heaps from a
distance; they pounced on them at once. The air resounded with cooings
of delight. There was no doubt of it; the scarfs pleased them almost
as much as the mirrors. Before the first flush of their delight had
passed, Honey ran down the beach, bearing aloft a long, shimmering,
white streamer. Ralph followed with a scarf of black and gold. Billy,
Pete, and Frank joined them, each fluttering a brilliant silk
The girls drew away in alarm at first. Then they drew together for
counsel. All the time the men stood quiet, waving their delicately
hued spoils. One by one—Clara first, then Chiquita, Lulu, Peachy,
Julia— they succumbed; they sank slowly. Even then they floated for a
long while, visibly swinging between the desire for possession and the
instinct of caution. But in the end each one of them took from her
mate the scarf he held up to her. Followed the prettiest exhibition of
flying that Angel Island had yet seen. The girls fastened the long
gauzes to their heads and shoulders. They flicked and flitted and
flittered, they danced and pirouetted and spun through the air,
trailing what in the aqueous moonlight looked like mist, irradiated,
"Well," said Ralph that night after the girls had vanished, "I
don't see that this business of handing out loot is getting us
anywhere. We can keep this up until we've given those harpies every
blessed thing in the trunks. Then where are we? They'll have
everything we have to give, and we'll be no nearer acquainted. We've
got to do something else."
"If we could only get them down to earth—if we could only
accustom them to walking about," Honey declared, "I'm sure we could
rig up some kind of trap."
"But you can't get them to do that," Billy said.
And the answer's obvious. They can't walk. You see how tiny, and
useless-looking their feet are. They're no good to them, because
they've never used them. It never occurs to them apparently even to
try to walk."
"Well, who would walk if he could fly?" demanded Pete pugnaciously.
"Well said, son," agreed Ralph, "but what are we going to do about
"I'll tell you what we can do about it," said Frank quietly, "if
you'll listen to me." The others turned to him. Their faces expressed
varying emotions—surprise, doubt, incredulity, a great deal of
amusement. But they waited courteously.
"The trouble has been heretofore," Frank went on in his best
academic manner, "that you've gone at this problem in too obvious a
way. You've appealed to only one motive—acquisitiveness. There's a
stronger one than that—curiosity."
The look of politely veiled amusement on the four faces began to
give way to credulity. "But how, Frank?" asked Billy.
"I'll show you how," said Frank. "I've been thinking it out by
myself for over a week now."
There was an air of quiet certainty about Frank. His companions
looked furtively at each other. The credulity in their faces changed
to interest. "Go on, Frank," Billy said. They listened closely to his
"What ever gave you the idea, Frank?" Billy asked at the end.
"The fact that I found a Yale spring-lock the other day," Frank
The next morning, the men arose at sunrise and went at once to
work. They worked together on the big cabin—the Clubhouse—and they
dug and hammered without intermission all day long. Halfway through
the morning, the girls came flying in a group to the beach. The men
paid no attention to them. Many times their visitors flew up and down
the length of the crescent of white, sparkling sand, each time
dropping lower, obviously examining it for loot. Finding none, they
flew in a body over the roof of the Clubhouse, each face turned
disdainfully away. The men took no notice even of this. The girls
gathered together in a quiet group and obviously discussed the
situation. After a little parley, they flew off. Later in the
afternoon came Lulu alone. She hovered at Honey's shoulder, displaying
all her little tricks of graceful flying; but Honey was obdurate.
Apparently he did not see her. Came Chiquita, floating lazily back and
forth over Frank's head like a monstrous, deeply colored tropical
bloom borne toward him on a breeze. She swam down close, floated
softly, but Frank did not even look in her direction. Came Peachy with
such marvels of flying, such diving and soaring, such gyrating and
flashing, that it took superhuman self-control not to drop everything
and stare. But nobody looked or paused. Came Clara, posturing almost
at their elbows. Came all save Julia, but the men ignored them
"Gee," said Honey, after they had all disappeared, "that took the
last drop of resolution in me. By Jove, you don't suppose they'll get
sore and stay away for good?"
Frank shook his head.
Day by day the men worked on the Clubhouse; they worked their
hardest from the moment of sunrise to the instant of sunset. It was a
square building, big compared with the little cabins. They made a
wide, heavy door at one end and long windows with shutters on both
sides. These were kept closed.
"Only one more day's work," Frank said at the end of a fortnight,
They finished the Clubhouse, as he prophesied, the next day.
"Now to furnish it," Frank said.
They put up rough shelves and dressing-tables. They put in chairs
and hammocks. Then, working secretly at night when the moon was full,
or in the morning just after sunrise—at any time during the day when
the girls were not in sight—they transferred the contents of a half
a dozen women's trunks to the Clubhouse. They hung the clothes
conspicuously in sight; they piled many small toilet articles on
tables and shelves; they placed dozens of mirrors about.
"It looks like a sale at the Waldorf," Honey said as they stood
surveying the effect. "Tomorrow, we begin our psychological siege. Is
that right, Frank?"
"Psychological siege is right," answered Frank with an unaccustomed
gayety and an unaccustomed touch of slang.
In the meantime the girls had shown their pique at this treatment
in a variety of small ways. Peachy and Clara made long detours around
the island in the effort not to pass near the camp. Chiquita and Lulu
flew overhead, but only in order to throw pebbles and sand down on the
men while they were working.
Julia alone took no part in this feud. If she was visible at all,
it was only as a glittering speck in the far-off reaches of the blue
The next time the four girls approached the island, the men arose
immediately from their work. With an ostentatious carelessness, they
went into the Clubhouse. With an ostentatious carefulness, they closed
the door. They stayed there for three hours.
Outside, the girls watched this maneuver in visible astonishment.
They drew together and talked it over, flew down close to the
Clubhouse, flew about it in circles, examined it on every side, made
even one perilous trip across the roof, the tips of their feet tapping
it in vicious little dabs. But flutter as they would, jabber as they
would, the Clubhouse preserved a tomb-like silence. After a while they
banged on the shutters and knocked against the door; but not a sound
or movement manifested itself inside.
They flew away finally.
The next day the same thing happened—and the next—and the next.
But on the fourth day, something quite different occurred.
The instant the men saw the girls approaching, they carefully
closed the door and windows of the Clubhouse, and then marched into
the interior of the island. Close by the lake, there was a thick
jungle of trees—a place where the branches matted together, in a
roof-like structure, leaving a cleared space below. The men crawled
into this shelter on their hands and knees for an eighth of a mile.
They stayed there three hours.
The girls had followed this procession in an air-course that
exactly paralleled the trail. When the men disappeared under the
trees, they came together in a chattering group, obviously astonished,
obviously irritated. Hours went by. Not a thing stirred in the jungle;
not a sound came from it. The girls hovered and floated, dipped, dove,
flew along the edge of the lake close to the water, tried by looking
under the trees, to get what was going on. It was useless. Then they
alighted on the tree-tops and swung themselves down from branch to
branch until they were as near earth as they dared to come. Again they
peered and peeped. And again it was useless. In the end, flying and
floating with the disconsolate air of those who kill time, they
frankly waited until the men emerged from the jungle. Then, again the
girls took up the airy course that paralleled the trail to the camp.
For two weeks the men rigidly followed a program. Alternately they
shut themselves inside the Clubhouse and concealed themselves in the
forest. They stayed the same length of time in both places—never
less than three hours.
For two weeks, the girls rigidly followed a program. When the men
retired to the Clubhouse, they spent the three hours hovering over it,
sometimes banging viciously with feet and hands against the walls,
sometimes dropping stones on the roof. When the men retired to the
jungle, they spent the three hours beating about the branches of the
trees, dipping lower and lower into the underbrush, taking, as time
went on, greater and greater risks. But, as in both cases, the men
were screened from observation, all their efforts were useless.
Finally came a day with a difference. The men retired to the forest
as usual but, by an apparent inadvertence, they left the door of the
Clubhouse open a crack.
As usual the girls followed the men to the lake, but this time
there was a different air about them; they seemed to bubble with
excitement. The men crawled under the underbrush and waited. The girls
made a perfunctory search of the jungle and then, as at a concerted
signal, they darted like bolts of lightning back in the direction of
"I think we've got them, boys," said Frank. There was a kind of
Berserker excitement about him, a wild note of triumph in his voice
and a white flare of triumph in his face. His breath came in excited
gusts and his nostrils dilated under the strain.
"I'm sure of it," agreed Ralph. "And, by Jove, I'm glad. I've never
had anything so get on my nerves as this chase." Ralph did, indeed,
look worn. Haggard and wild-eyed, he was shaking under the strain.
"Lord, I'm glad—but, Lord, it's some responsibility," said Honey
Smith. Honey was not white or drawn. He did not shake. But he had
changed. Still radiantly youthful, there was a new look in his face—
"I feel like a mucker," groaned Billy. He lay face down on a heap
of vines, his forehead pressed against the cool leaves. "But it is
right," he added as one arguing fiercely with himself. "It is right.
There's no other way."
"I feel like a white slaver," said Pete. He was unshaven and the
black shadow of his beard contrasted sharply with the white set look
in his face. "It's hell to live, isn't it? But the worst of it is, we
"Time's up." Frank breathed these words on the long gust of his
outgoing breath. "Now, don't go to pieces. Remember, it must be done."
One behind the other, they crawled through the narrow tunnel that
they had cut into the underbrush—found the trail.
"Let's swim across the lake," Honey suggested; "I'm losing my
"Good idea," Billy said. They plunged into the water. Fifteen
minutes later, they emerged on the other side, cool, composed, ready
The long trip back to the camp was taken almost in silence. Once in
a while, a mechanical "That's a new bird, isn't it?" came from Billy
and, a perfunctory "Look at that color," from Pete. Frank walked
ahead. He towered above the others. He kept his eyes to the front.
Ralph followed. At intervals, he pulled himself up and peered into the
sky or dropped and tried to pierce the untranslatable distance; all
this with the quiet, furtive, prowling movements of some predatory
beast. Next came Honey, whistling under his breath and all the time
whistling the same tune. Billy and Pete, walking side by side, tailed
the procession. At times, those two caught themselves at the beginning
of shuddering fits, but always by a supreme effort they managed to
They came finally to the point where the jungle-trail joined the
"There isn't one in sight," said Frank.
"They may have flown home," Honey said doubtfully.
"They're in the Clubhouse," said Ralph. And he burst suddenly into
a long, wild cry of triumph. The cry was taken up in a faint shrill
echo. From the distance came shrieks—women's voices—smothered.
"By God, we've got them," said Frank again.
And then a strange thing happened. Pete Murphy crooked his elbow up
to his face and burst into hysterical weeping.
All this time, the men were moving swiftly towards the Clubhouse.
As they approached, the sound inside grew in volume from a hum of
terrified whisperings accented by drumming wings, to a pandemonium of
cries and sobs and wails.
"They'll make a rush when we open the door, remember," Ralph
reminded them. His eyes gleamed like a cat's.
"Yes, but we can handle them," said Frank. "There isn't much nerve
left in them by this time."
"I say, boys, I can't stand this," burst out Billy. "Open the door
and let them out."
Billy's words brought murmured echoes of approval from Pete and
"You've got to stand it," Frank said in a tone of command. He
surveyed his mutinous crew with a stern look of authority.
"I can't do it," Honey admitted.
"I feel sick," Pete groaned.
Just then emerged from the pandemonium within another sound, curt
and sharp-cut, the crash against the door of something heavy.
"That door won't stand much of that," Frank warned. "They'll get
out before we know it."
The look of irresolution went like a flash from Billy's face, from
Honey's, from Pete's. The look of the hunter took its place, keen,
alert, determined, cruel.
"Keep close behind me," Frank ordered.
"When I open the door, push in as quick as you can. They'll try to
Inside the vibrant drumming kept up. Mixed with it came screams
more sharp with terror. There came another crash.
Frank pounded on the door. "Stand back! he called in a quiet tone
of authority as if the girls could understand. He fitted the key to
the lock, turned it, pulled the door open, leaped over the two broken
chairs on the threshold. The others followed, crowding close.
The rush that they had expected did not come.
Apparently at the first touch on the door, the, girls had retreated
to the farthest corner. They stood huddled there, gathered behind
Julia. They stood close together, swaying, half-supporting each other,
their pinions drooped and trailing, their eyes staring black with
horror out of their white faces.
Julia, a little in front, stood at defiance. Her wings, as though
animated by a gentle voltage of electricity, kept lifting with a low
purring whirr. Half-way they struck the ceiling and dropped dead. The
tiny silvery-white feathers near her shoulders rose like fur on a
cat's back. One hand was clenched; the other grasped a chair. Her face
was not terrified; neither was it white. It glowed with rage, as if a
fire had been built in an alabaster vase.
All about on the floor, on chairs, over shelves lay the gauds that
had lured them to their capture. Of them all, Julia alone showed no
change. Below the scarlet draperies swathing Chiquita's voluptuous
outlines appeared the gold stockings and the high-heeled gold slippers
which she had tried on her beautiful Andalusian feet. Necklaces swung
from her throat; bracelets covered her arms; rings crowded her
fingers. Lulu had thrown about her leafy costume an evening cape of
brilliant blue brocade trimmed with ermine. On her head glittered a
boudoir-cap of web lace studded with iridescent mock jewels. Over her
mail of seaweed, Clara wore a mandarin's coat—yellow, with a
decoration of tiny mirrors. Her hair was studded with jeweled
hairpins, combs; a jeweled band, a jeweled aigrette. Peachy had put on
a pink chiffon evening gown hobbled in the skirt, one shoulder-length,
shining black glove, a long chain of fire-opals. Out of this emerged
with an astonishing effect of contrast her gleaming pearly shoulders
and her, lustrous blue wings.
An instant the two armies stood staring at each other—at close
terms for the first time. Then, with one tremendous sweep of her arm,
Julia threw something over their heads out the open door. It flashed
through the sunlight like a rainbow rocket, tore the surface of the
sea in a dazzle of sparks and colors.
"There goes five hundred thousand dollars," said Honey as the
Wilmington "Blue" found its last resting-place. "Shut the door, Pete."
With another tremendous sweep of her magnificent arm, Julia lifted
the chair, swung it about her head as if it were a whip, rushed—not
running or flying, but with a movement that was both—upon the five
men. Her companions seized anything that was near. Lulu wrenched a
shelf from its fastenings.
The men closed in upon them.
Twenty minutes later, silence had fallen on the Clubhouse, a
silence that was broken only by panted breathing. The five men stood
resting. The five girls stood, tied to the walls, their hands pinioned
in front of them. At intervals, one or the other of them would call in
an agonized tone to Julia. And always she answered with words that
reassured and calmed.
The room looked as if it had housed a cyclone. The furniture lay in
splinters; the feminine loot lay on the floor, trampled and torn.
"I'd like to sit down," Ralph admitted. It was the first remark
that any one of the men had made. "Lucky they can't understand me. I'd
hate them to know it, but I'm as weak as a cat."
"No sitting down, yet," Frank commanded, still in his inflexible
tones of a disciplinarian. "Open the door, Pete—get some air in
here!" He knelt before a sea-chest which filled one corner of the
room, unlocked it, lifted the cover. The sunlight glittered on the
"My God, I can't," said Billy.
"I feel like a murderer," said Pete.
"You've got to," Frank said in a tone, growing more peremptory with
each word. "Now."
"That's right," said Ralph. "If we don't do it now, we'll never do
Frank handed each man a pair of shears.
"I sharpened them myself," he said briefly.
Heads over their shoulders, the girls watched.
Did intuition shout a warning to them? As with one accord, a long
wail arose from them, swelled to despairing volume, ascended to
"Now!" Frank ordered.
They had thought the girls securely tied.
Clara fought like a leopardess, scratching and biting.
Lulu struggled like a caged eagle, hysteria mounting in her all the
time until the room was filled with her moans.
Peachy beat herself against the wall like a maniac. She shrieked
without cessation. One scream stopped suddenly in the middle—Ralph
had struck her on the forehead. For the rest of the shearing session
she lay over a chair, limp and silent.
Chiquita, curiously enough, resisted not at all. She only swayed
and shrugged, a look of a strange cunning in her long, deep,
thick-lashed eyes. But of them all, she was the only one who attempted
to comfort; she talked incessantly.
Julia did not move or speak. But at the first touch of the cold
steel on her bare shoulders, she fainted in Billy's arms.
An hour later the men emerged from the Clubhouse.
"I'm all in," Honey muttered. "And I don't care who knows it. I'm
going for a swim." Head down, he staggered away from the group and
zigzagged over the beach.
"I guess I'll go back to the camp for a smoke," Frank said. "I
never realized before that I had nerves." Frank was white, and he
shook at intervals. But some strange spirit, compounded equally of a
sense of victory and of defeat, flashed in his eyes.
"I'm going off for a tramp." Pete was sunken as well as ashen; he
looked dead. "Do you suppose they'll hurt themselves pulling against
those ropes?" he asked tonelessly.
"Let them struggle for a while," Ralph advised. Like the rest of
them, Ralph was exhausted-looking and pale. But at intervals he
swaggered and glowed. With his strange, new air of triumph and his
white teeth glittering through his dark mustache, he was more than
ever like some huge predatory cat. "Serves them right! They've taken
it out of us for three months."
Billy did not speak, but he swayed as he followed Frank. He fell on
his bed when they reached the camp. He lay there all night motionless,
staring at the ceiling.
There was a tiny spot of blood on one hand.
Dawn on Angel Island.
A gigantic rose bloomed at the horizon-line; half its satin petals
lay on the iron sea, half on the granite sky. The gold-green morning
star was fading slowly. From the island came a confusion of
Addington emerged from the Clubhouse. Without looking about him, he
staggered down the path to the Camp. The fire was still burning. The
other men lay beside it, moveless, asleep with their clothes on. They
waked as his footsteps drew near. Livid with fatigue, their eyelids
dropping in spite of their efforts, they jerked upright.
"How are they?" Billy asked.
"The turn has come," Ralph answered briefly. As he spoke he
crumpled slowly into a heap beside the fire. "They're going to live."
The others did not speak; they waited.
"Julia did it. She had dozed off. Suddenly in the middle of the
night, she sat upright. She was as white as marble but there was a
light back of her face. And with all that wonderful hair falling down
- she looked like an angel. She called to them one by one. And they
answered her, one by one. You never heard—it was like little birds
answering the mother-bird's call. At first their voices were faint and
weak. But she kept encouraging them until they sat up—God, it was—
Ralph could not go on for a while.
"She gave them a long talk—she was so weak she had to keep
stopping— but she went right on—and they listened. Of course I
couldn't understand a word. But I knew what she said. In effect, it
was: 'We cannot die. We must all live. We cannot leave any one of us
here alone. Promise me that you will get well!' She pledged them to
it. She made them take an oath, one after the other. Oh, they were
obedient enough. They took it."
He stopped again.
"That talk made the greatest difference. After it was all over, I
gave them some water. They were different even then. They looked at me
- and they didn't shrink or shudder. When I handed Julia the cup, she
made herself smile. God, you never saw such a smile. I nearly—" he
paused, "I all but went back to the cabin and cut my throat. But the
fight's over. They'll get well. They're sleeping like children now."
"Thank God!" Merrill groaned. "Oh, thank God!"
"I've felt like a murderer ever since—- " Billy said. He stopped
and his voice leaped with a sudden querulousness. "You didn't wake me
up; you've done double guard duty during the night, Ralph."
"Oh, that's all right. You were all in—I felt that—" Ralph
stammered in a shamefaced fashion. "And I knew I could stand it."
"There's a long sleep coming to you, Ralph," Pete said. "You've
hardly closed your eyes this week. No question but you've saved their
Mid-morning on Angel Island.
The sun had mounted half-way to the zenith; sky and sea and land
glittered with its luster. Like war-horses, the waves came ramping
over the smooth, shimmering sand; war-horses with bodies of jade and
manes of silver.
Pete floated inshore on a huge comber, ran up the beach a little
way and sat down. Billy followed.
"I've come out just to get the picture," Pete explained.
"Same here," said Billy.
For an instant, both men contemplated the scene with the narrowed,
critical gaze of the artist.
The flying-girls were swimming; and swimming with the same grace
and strength with which formerly they flew. And as if inevitably they
must take on the quality of the element in which they mixed, they
looked like mermaids now, just as formerly they had looked like birds.
They carried heads and shoulders high out of the water. Webs of
sea-spume glittered on the shining hair and on the white flesh. One
behind the other, they swam in rhythmic unison. Regularly the long,
round, strong-looking right arms reached out of the water, bowed
forward, clutched at the wave, and pulled them on. Simultaneously, the
left arms reached back, pushed against the wave, and shot them
forward. Their feet beat the water to a lather.
They were headed down the beach, hugging the shore. Swim as hard as
they could, Honey and Frank managed but to keep up with them. Ralph
overtook them only in their brief resting-periods. Further inshore,
carried ceaselessly a little forward and then a little back, Julia
floated; floated with an unimaginable lightness and yet, somehow,
conserved her aspect of a creature cut in marble.
"I have never seen anything so beautiful in any art, ancient or
modern," Billy concluded. "When those strange draperies that they
affect get wet, they look like the Elgin marbles."
"If we should take them to civilization," was Pete's answer, "the
Elgin marbles would become a joke."
Billy spoke after a long silence. "It's been an experience that—
if I were—oh, but what's the use? You can't describe it. The words
haven't been invented yet. I don't mean the fact that we've discovered
members of a lost species—the missing link between bird and man. I
mean what's happened since the capture. It's left marks on me. I'll
bear them until I die. If we abandoned this island—and them—and
went back to the world, I could never be the same person. If I woke up
and found it was a dream, I could never be the same person."
"I know," Pete said, "I know. I've changed, too. We all have. Old
Frank is a god. And Honey's grown so that—. Even Ralph's a different
man. Changed—God, I should say I had. It's not only given me a new
hold on things I thought I'd lost-morality, ethics, religion even—
but it's developed something I have no word for—the fourth dimension
of religion, faith."
"It's their weakness, I think, and their dependence." Now it was
less that Billy tried to translate Pete's thought and more that he
endeavored to follow his own. "It puts it up to a man so. And their
beauty and purity and innocence and simplicity—." Billy seemed to be
ransacking his vocabulary for abstract nouns.
"And that sense you have," Pete broke in eagerly, "of molding a
virgin mind. It gives you a feeling of responsibility that's fairly
terrifying at times. But there's something else mixed up with it—the
instinct of the artist. It's as though you were trying to paint a
picture on human flesh. You know that you're going to produce beauty."
Pete's face shone with the look of creative genius. "The production of
beauty excuses any method, to my way of thinking." He spoke half to
himself. "God knows," he added after a pause, "whatever I've done and
been, I could never do or be again. Sometimes a man knows when he's
reached the zenith of his spiritual development. I've reached mine. I
think they're beginning to trust us," he added after another long
interval, in which silently they contemplated the moving composition.
Pete's tone had come back to its everyday accent.
"No question about it," Billy rejoined. "If I do say it as
shouldn't, I think my scheme was the right one—never to separate any
one of them from the others, never to seem to try to get them alone,
and in everything to be as gentle and kind and considerate as we
"That look is still in their eyes," Pete said. He turned away from
Billy and his face contracted. "It goes through me like a knife—- .
When that's gone—- ."
"It will go inevitably, Pete," Billy reassured him cheerfully.
Suddenly his own voice lowered. "One queer thing I've noticed. I
wonder if you're affected that way. I always feel as if they still had
wings. What I mean is this. If I stand beside one of them with my eyes
turned away I always get an impression that they're still there,
towering above my head— ghosts of wings. Ever notice it?"
"Oh, Lord, yes!" Pete agreed. "Often. I hate it. But that will go,
too. Here they come."
The bathers had turned; they were swimming up the beach. They
passed Julia, who joined the procession, and turned toward the land.
Stretched in a long line, they rode in on a big wave. Billy and Pete
leaped forward. Assisted by the men, the girls tottered up the sand,
gathered into a little group, talking among themselves. Their wet
draperies clung to them in long, sweeping lines; but they dried with
amazing quickness. The sun grew hotter and hotter. Their transient
flash of animation died down; their conversation gradually stopped.
Chiquita settled herself flat on the sand, the sunlight pouring
like a silver liquid into the blue-black masses of her hair, her
narrow brows, her thick eyelashes. Presently she fell asleep. Clara
leaned against a low ledge of rock and spread her coppery mane across
its surface. It dried almost immediately; she divided it into plaits
and coils and wove it into an elaborate structure. Her fingers seemed
to strike sparks from it; it coruscated. Julia lay on her side, eyes
downcast, tracing with one finger curious tangled patterns in the
sand. Her hair blew out and covered her body as with a silken,
honey-colored fabric; the lines of her figure were lost in its
abundance. Peachy sat drooped over, her hand supporting her chin and
her knees supporting her elbows, her eyes fixed on the horizon-line.
Her hair dried, too, but she did not touch it. It flowed down her back
and spread into a pool of gold on the sand. She might have been a
mermaid cast up by that sea on which she gazed with such a tragic
wistfulness—and forever cut off from it.
A little distance from the rest, Honey sat with Lulu. She was
shaking the brown masses of her hair vigorously and Honey was helping
her. He was evidently trying to teach her something because, over and
over again, his lips moved to form two words, and over and over again,
her red lips parted, mimicking them. Gradually, Lulu lost all interest
in her hair. She let it drop. It floated like a furry mantle over her
shoulders. Into her little brown, pointed face came a look of
overpowering seriousness, of tremendous concentration. Occasionally
Honey would stop to listen to her; but invariably her recital sent him
into peals of laughter. Lulu did not laugh; she grew more and more
serious, more and more concentrated.
The other men talked among themselves. Occasionally they addressed
a remark to their captives. The flying-girls replied in hesitating
flutters of speech, a little breathy yes or no whenever those
monosyllables would serve, an occasional broken phrase. Superficially
they seemed calm, placid even. But if one of the men moved suddenly,
an uncontrollable panic overspread their faces.
Honey arose after a long interval, strolled over to the main group.
"I think they're coming to the conclusion that we're regular
fellows," he declared cheerfully. "Lulu doesn't jump or shriek any
more when I run toward her."
"Oh, it's coming along all right," Frank said.
"It's surprising how quickly and how correctly they're getting the
"I'm going to begin reading aloud to them next week," Pete
announced. "That'll be a picnic."
"It's been a long fight," Ralph said contentedly. "But we've won
out. We've got them going. I knew we would." His eyes went to Peachy's
face, but once there, their look of triumph melted to tenderness.
"What are we going to read them?" Honey asked idly. He did not
really listen to Pete's answer. His eyes, sparkling with amusement,
had gone back to Lulu, who still sat seriously practising her lesson.
Red lips, little white teeth, slender pink tongue seemed to get into
an inextricable tangle over the simple monosyllables.
"Leave that to me!" Pete was saying mysteriously. "I'll have them
reading and writing by the end of another two months."
"It's curious how long it's taken them to get over that terror of
us," said Billy. "I cannot understand it."
"Oh, they'll explain why they've been so afraid," said Frank, "as
soon as they've got enough vocabulary. We cannot know, until they tell
us how many of their conventions we have broken, how brutal we may
"And yet," Billy went on, "I should think they'd see that we
wouldn't do anything that wasn't for their own good. Well, just as
soon as I can put it over with them, I'm going to give them a long
spiel on the gentleman's code. I don't believe they'll ever be
frightened of us again. Hello!"
Lulu had tottered over to their group, supporting herself by the
ledge of rock. She pulled herself upright, balancing precariously. She
put her sharp little teeth close, parted her lips and produced:
The men burst into roars of laughter. Lulu looked from one face to
the other in perplexity. In perplexity, the other women looked from
her to them and at each other.
"Sounds like the Yale yell!" Pete commented.
"But what I can't understand," Billy said, reverting to his thesis,
"is that they don't realize instantly that we wouldn't hurt them for
any thing—that that's a thing a fellow couldn't do."
Twilight on Angel Island.
The stars were beginning to shoot tiny white, five-pointed flames
through the purple sky. The fireflies were beginning to cut long arcs
of gold in the sooty dusk. The waves were coming up the low-tide beach
with a long roar and retreating with a faint hiss. Afterwards floated
on the air the music of the shingle, hundreds of pebbles pattering
with liquid footsteps down the sand. Peals of laughter, the continuous
bass roar of the men, an occasional uncertain soprano lilting of the
women, came from the group. The girls were reciting their lessons.
"Three little girls from school are we, Pert as schoolgirls well
can be, Filled to the brim with girlish glee, Three little maids from
intoned Lulu, Chiquita, and Clara together.
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? Silver
bells and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row."
"The hounds of spring are on winter's traces," began Julia. With no
effort of the memory, with a faultless enunciation, a natural feeling
for rhythm and apparently with comprehension, she, recited the
"That's enough for lessons," Honey demanded.
"Wait a moment!"
He rushed into the bushes and busied himself among the fire-flies.
The other four men, divining his purpose, joined him. They came back
with handkerchiefs tied full of tiny, wriggling, fluttering green
In a few moments, the five women sat crowned with carcanets of
"Now read us a story," Lulu begged.
Pete drew a little book from his pocket. Discolored and swollen,
the print was big and still black.
"'Once upon a time,'" he began, "'there was a little girl who lived
with her father and her stepmother—'"
"What's 'stepmother'?" Lulu asked.
"The stepmother had two daughters, and all three of these women
were cruel and proud—- '"
"What's 'cruel and proud'?" Chiquita asked.
"'And so between the three the little girl had a very hard time.
She worked like a slave all day long, and was never allowed to go out
of the kitchen. The stepmother and the proud sisters, used to go to
balls every night, leaving the little girl alone. Because she was
always so dusty and grimy from working over the fire, they called her
Cinderella. Now, it happened that the country was ruled by a very
handsome young prince -'"
"What's 'handsome young prince'?" Clara asked.
"'And all the ladies of the kingdom were in love with him.'"
"What's 'in love'?" Peachy asked.
Pete closed the book.
"Ah, that's a question," he said after an instant of meditation,
"that will admit of some answer. Say, you fellers, you'd better come
Moonlight on Angel Island.
The sea lay like a carpet of silver stretched taut from the white
line of the waves to the black seam of the sky. The land lay like a
crumpled mass of silver velvet, heaped to tinselled brightness here,
hollowed to velvety shadow there. Over both arched the mammoth silver
tent of the sky. In the cleft in the rock on the southern reef sat
Julia and Billy. Under a tree at the north sat Peachy and Ralph.
Scattered in shaded places between sat the others. The night was
quiet; but on the breeze came murmurs sometimes in the man's voice,
sometimes in the woman's. Fragmentary they were, these murmurs, and
inarticulate; but their composite was ever the same.
Sunrise on Angel Island.
In and out among the trees, wound a procession following the
northern trail. First came Lulu, white-clad, serious, pale, walking
with Honey. The others, crowned with flowers and carrying garlands,
followed, serious and silent, the women clinging with both hands to
the men, who supported their snail-like, tottering progress with one
arm about their waists. On the point of the northern reef, a cabin
made of round beach-stones fronted the ocean. It fronted the rising
sun now and a world, all ocean and sky, over which lay a rose
dawnlight. Still silent, the procession paused and grouped about the
house. Frank Merrill stepped forward and placed himself in front of
Honey and Lulu.
"We are gathered here this morning," Frank said in his deep
academic voice, "to marry this man to this woman and this woman to
this man. If there is any reason why you should not enter into the
married state, pause before it is too late." His voice came to a full
stop. He waited. "If not, I pronounce you man and wife."
Silently still, the others placed their garlands and wreaths at the
feet of the wedded pair. Turning, they walked slowly back over the
Midnight on Angel Island.
Julia sat alone on the stone bench at the door of the Honeymoon
House. She gazed straight ahead out on a star-lighted sea, which
joined a star-lighted sky and stretched in pulsating star-gleams to
the end of space. She gazed straight out, but apparently she saw
nothing. Her eyes were abstracted and her brow furrowed. Her shoulders
A man came bounding up the path.
"Has Ralph been here?" he asked curtly. Billy's face was fiery. His
"He's been here," Julia answered immediately. "He's gone!"
"By God, I'll kill him!" Billy turned white.
Julia's brow smoothed. She smiled a little. "No, you will not kill
him," she said with her old serene air. "You will not have to kill
him. He will never come again."
"Did he try to make love to you?"
"How did he justify himself?"
"He appealed to me to save him. I did not quite understand from
what. He said I could make a better man of him." Julia laughed a
"How did you know he was here?"
"I stopped at their cabin. He was not there. Peachy did not know
where he was. Of course, I guessed at once. I came here immediately."
"Did Peachy seem troubled?"
"No. She doesn't care. Pete was there, examining her drawings.
They're half in love with each other. And then again, Pete doesn't
know, or if he does know, he doesn't care, that Clara is doing her
damnedest to start a flirtation with Honey. And Lulu has walked about
like a woman in a dream for weeks. What are we all coming to? There's
nothing but flirting here!"
"It must be so," Julia said, "as long as men and women are idle."
"But how can we be anything but idle? There's nothing to do on this
"I don't know," said Julia slowly; "I don't know."
"Julia," Billy said in a pleading voice, "marry me!"
A strange expression came into Julia's eyes. Part of it was
irresolution and part of it was terror. But a poignant wistful
tenderness fused. both these emotions, shot them with light.
"Not yet," she said in a terrified voice. "Not yet!"
"I don't know—why. Only that I cannot."
"Then, when will you marry me? Julia, I see all the others together
and it—- . You don't know what it does to me."
"Yes, I know! It kills me too."
"Then why wait?"
"Because—- ." The poignant look went for an instant from Julia's
eyes. A strange brooding came in its place. "Because a little voice
inside says, 'Wait!'"
"Julia, do you love me?"
Julia did not answer. She only looked at him.
"You are sure there is nobody else?"
"I am sure. There could never be anybody else—after that first
night when I waked you from sleep."
"It is forever, then?"
Billy sighed. "I'll wait, then—until eternity shrivels up."
They sat for a long time, silent.
"Here comes somebody," Billy said suddenly. "It's one of the
girls," he added after a moment of listening. "I'll leave you, I
He melted into the darkness.
A woman appeared, dragging herself along by means of the rail. It
was Lulu, a strange Lulu, a Lulu pallid and silent, but a Lulu
shining-eyed. She pulled herself over to Julia's side. "Julia!"
"Julia! Oh, Julia!"
Lulu's voice was not voice. It was not speech. Liquid sound flowed
from her lips, crystallizing at the touch of the air, to words.
"Julia, I came to you first, after Honey. I wanted you to know."
"Oh, Lulu," Julia said, "not—- ."
Her eyes reflected the stars in Lulu's eyes. And there they stood,
their two faces throwing gleam for gleam.
"Yes," said Lulu. Suddenly she knelt sobbing on the floor, her face
in Julia's lap.
Mid-afternoon on Angel Island.
Four women sat in the Honeymoon House, sewing. Outside the world
still lay in sunshine, the land cut by the beginning of shadow, the
sea streaked with purple and green.
"Why didn't you bring the children?" Julia, asked.
Lulu answered. "Honey and Frank were going in swimming this
morning, and they said they'd take care of them. I'm glad to get
Honey-Boy off my hands for an afternoon."
"And why hasn't Peachy come?" Julia asked. I stopped as I went by,"
Lulu explained. Oh, Julia, I wish you didn't live way off here—it
takes us an hour of crawling to pull ourselves along the path. Angela
hadn't waked up yet. It was a longer nap than usual. Peachy said she'd
come just as soon as she opened her eyes. I went in to look at her.
Oh, she's such a darling, smiling in her sleep. Oh, I do hope I have a
"I do, too," said Clara. "Peterkin's fun, of course. But I can't do
the things for a boy that I could for a girl."
"I'd rather have boys," Chiquita said; "they're less trouble."
"Would you rather have boys or girls, Julia?" Lulu asked.
"Girls!" said Julia decisively. "A big family of girls."
"Then," Lulu began, and a question trembled in her bright eyes and
on her curved lips.
But, "Here's Peachy!" Julia exclaimed before she could go on.
Peachy came toiling up the path, pulling herself along, both hands
on the wooden rail. She tottered, but in spite of her snail-like
progress, it was evident that she hurried. A tiny bundle hung between
her shoulders. It oscillated gently with her haste.
"Let me take Angela," Julia said as Peachy struggled over the
"Wait!" Peachy panted. She sank on a couch.
There was a strange element in her look, an overpowering eagerness.
This eagerness had brimmed over into her manner; it vibrated in her
trembling voice, her fluttering hands. She sat down. She reached up
and lifted the baby from her shoulders to her lap. Angela still slept,
a delicate bud of a girl-being. But Peachy gave her audience no time
to study the sleeping face. She turned the baby over. She pulled the
single light garment off. Then she looked up at the other women.
The little naked figure lay in the golden sunlight, translucent,
like an angel carved in alabaster. But on the shoulder-blades lay
shadow, deep shadow—no, not shadow, a fluff of feathery down.
"Wings!" Peachy said. "My little girl is going to fly!"
"Wings!" the others repeated. "Wings!"
And then the room seemed to fill with tears that ended in laughter,
and laughter that ended in tears.
They won't be home until very late tonight," announced Lulu. "The
work they're doing now is hard and irritating and fussy. Honey says
that they want to get through with it as soon as possible. He said
they'd keep at it as long as the light lasted."
"It seems as if their working days grew longer all the time," Clara
said petulantly. "They start off earlier and earlier in the morning
and they stay later and later at night. And did you know that they are
planning soon to stay a week at the New Camp—they say the walk back
is so fatiguing after a long day's work."
The others nodded.
"And then the instant they've had their dinner," Lulu continued,
"off they go to that tiresome Clubhouse—for tennis and ball and
bocci. It seems, somehow, as if I never had a chance to talk with
Honey nowadays. I should think they'd get enough of each other,
working side by side all day long, the way they do. But no! The moment
they've eaten and had their smoke, they must get together again. Why
is it, I wonder? I should think they would have said all they had to
say in the daytime."
"Pete is worse than any of them," Clara went on. "After he comes
back from the Clubhouse, he wants to sit up and write for an hour or
two. Oh, I get fairly desperate sometimes, sitting there listening to
the eternal scratching of his pen. I cannot understand his point of
view, to save my life. If I talk, it irritates him. My very breathing
annoys him; he cannot have me in the same room with him. But if I
leave the cabin, he can't write a word. He wants me near, always. He
says it's the knowing I'm there that makes him feel like writing. And
then Sundays, if he isn't writing, he's painting. I don't mind his not
being there in the daytime in a way because, of course, there's always
Peterkin. But at night, when I've put Peterkin to bed I do want
something different to happen. As it is, I have to make a scene to get
up any excitement. I do it, too, without compunction. When it gets to
the point that I know I must scream or go crazy, I scream. And I do a
good job in screaming, too."
"What would you like him to do, Clara?" Julia asked.
The petulant frown between Clara's eyebrows deepened. "I don't
know," she said wearily. "I don't know what it is that I want to do;
but I want to do something. Peterkin is asleep and perfectly safe—
and I feel like going somewhere. Now, if I could fly, it would rest me
so, to go for a long, long journey through the air." As she concluded,
some new expression, some strange hardness of her maturity, melted;
her face was for an instant the face of the old Clara.
Julia made no comment.
It was Chiquita who took it up.
"My husband talks enough. In fact, he talks all the time. But if I
tire of his voice, I let myself fall asleep. He never notices. That is
why I've grown so big. Sometimes "—discontent dulled for an instant
the slow fire of her slumberous eyes—" sometimes my life seems one
long sleep. If it weren't for junior, I'd feel as if I weren't quite
"Ralph talks a great deal," Peachy said listlessly, "by fits and
starts, and he takes me out when he comes home, if he happens to feel
like walking himself. He says, though, that it exhausts him having to
help me along. But it isn't that I want particularly. Often I want to
go out alone. I want to soar. The earth has never satisfied me. I want
to explore the heights. I want to explore them alone, and I want to
explore them when the mood seizes me. And I want to feel when I come
back that I can talk about it or keep silent as he does. But I must
make my discoveries and explorations in my own way. Ralph sometimes
gives me long talks about astronomy—he seems to think that studying
about the stars will quiet me. One little flight straight up would
mean more to me than all that talk. Ralph does not understand it in
me, and I cannot explain it to him. And yet he feels exactly that way
himself—he's always going off by himself through unexplored trails
on the island. But he cannot comprehend how I, being a woman, should
have the same desire. Do you remember when our wings first began to
grow strong and our people kept us confined, how we beat our wings
against the wall—beat and beat and beat? At times now, I feel
exactly like that. Why, sometimes I envy little Angela her wings."
The five women reclined on long, low rustic couches in the big,
cleared half-oval that was the Playground for their children. It began
- this half-oval—in high land among the trees and spread down over a
beach to the waters of a tiny cove. Between the high tapering boles of
the pines at their back the sky dropped a curtain of purple. Between
the long ledges of tawny rock in front the sea stretched a carpet of
turquoise. And between pines and sea lay first a rusty mat of
pine-needles, then a, ribbon of purple stones, then a band of
glittering sand. In the air the resinous smell of the pines competed
with the salty tang of the ocean. High up, silver-winged gulls curved
and dipped and called their creaking signals.
At the water's edge four children were playing. Honey-Boy had waded
out waist-deep. A sturdy, dark, strong-bodied, tiny replica of his
father, he stood in an exact reproduction of one of Honey's poses, his
arms folded over his little pouter-pigeon chest, lips pursed, brows
frowning, dimples inhibited, gazing into the water. Just beyond, one
foot on the bottom, Peterkin pretended to swim. Peterkin had an
unearthly beauty that was half Clara's coloring—combination of
tawny hair with gray-green eyes—and half Pete's expression—the
look, doubly strange, of the Celt and the genius. Slender and
beautifully formed, graceful, he was in every possible way a contrast
to virile little Billy-Boy; he was even elegant; he had the look of a
story-book prince. Far up the beach, cuddled in a warm puddle, naked,
sat a fat, redheaded baby, Frank Merrill, junior. He watched the
others intently for a while. Then breaking into a grin which nearly
bisected the face under the fiery thatch, he began an imitative paddle
with his pudgy hands and feet.
Flitting hither and yon, hovering one moment at the water's edge
and another at Junior's side, moving with a capricious
will-o'-the-wisp motion that dominated the whole picture, flew Angela.
Beautiful as the other children were, they sank to commonplaces in
contrast with Angela.
For Angela was a being of faery. Her single loose garment, serrated
at the edges, knee-length, and armless, left slits at the back for a
pair of wings to emerge. Tiny these wings were, and yet they were
perfect in form; they soared above her head, soft, fine, shining,
delicate as milkweed-down and of a white that was beginning, near the
shoulders, to deepen to a pale rose. Angela's little body was as
slender as a flower-stem. Her limbs showed but the faintest of curves,
her skin but the faintest of tints. Almost transparent in the
sunlight, she had in the shadow the coloring of the opal, pale
rose-pinks and pale violet-blues. Her hair floated free to her
shoulders; and that, more than any other detail, seemed to accent the
quality of faery in her personality. In calm it clung to her head like
a pale-gold mist; in breeze it floated away like a pale-gold nimbus.
It seemed as though a shake of her head would send it drifting off—a
huge thistle-down of gold. Her eyes reflected the tint of whatever
blue they gazed on, whether it was the frank azure of the sky or the
mysterious turquoise of the sea. And yet their look was strangely
intent. When she passed from shadow to sunshine, the light seemed to
dissolve her hair and wing-edges, as though it were gradually taking
her to itself.
"Oh, yes, Peachy," Lulu said, "Angela's wings must be a comfort to
you. You must live it all over again in her."
"I do!" answered Peachy. "I do." There was tremendous conviction in
her voice, as though she were defending herself from some silent
accusation. "But it isn't the same. It isn't. It can't be. Besides, I
want to fly with her."
The ripples in the cove grew to little waves, to big waves, to
combers. The women talked and the children played. Honey-Boy and
Peterkin waded out to their shoulders, dipped, and pretended to swim
back. Angela flew out to meet a wave bigger than the others, balanced
on its crest. Wings outspread, she fluttered back, descended when the
crash came in a shower of rainbow drops. She dipped and rose, her
feathers dripping molten silver, flew on to the advancing crest.
"Oh," Lulu sighed, "I do want a little girl. I threatened if this
one was a boy to drown it." "This one" proved to be a bundle lying on
the pine-needles at her side. The bundle stirred and emitted a
querulous protest. She picked it up and it proved to be a baby, just
such another sturdy little dark creature as Honey-Boy must have been.
"Your mother wouldn't exchange you for a million girls now," Lulu
addressed him fondly. "I pray every night, though, that the next one
will be a girl."
"I want a girl, too," Clara remarked. "Well, we'll see next
spring." Clara had not been happy at the prospect of her first
maternity, but she was jubilant over her second.
"It will be nice for Angela, too," Peachy said, to have some little
girl to play with. Come, baby!" she called in a sudden access of
Angela flew down from the tip of a billow, came fluttering and
flying up the beach. Once or twice, for no apparent reason, her wings
fell dead, sagged for a few moments; then her little pink, shell-like
feet would pad helplessly on the sand. Twice she dropped her pinions
deliberately; once to climb over a big root, once to mount a boulder
that lay in her path. "Don't walk, Angela!" Peachy called sharply at
these times. "Fly! Fly!" And obediently, Angela stopped, waited until
the strength flowed into her wings, started again. She reached the
group of mothers, not by direct flight, but a complicated method of
curving, arching, dipping, and circling. Peachy arose, balanced
herself, caught her little daughter in midair, kissed her. The women
handed her from one to the other, petting and caressing her.
Julia received her last. She sat with Angela in the curve of her
arm, one hand caressing the drooped wings. It was like holding a
little wild bird. With every breeze, Angela's wings opened. And
always, hands, feet, hair, feathers fluttered with some temperamental
The boys tiring of the waves, came scrambling in their direction.
Half-way up the beach, they too came upon the boulder in the path. It
was too high and smooth for them to climb, but they immediately set
themselves to do it. Peterkin pulled himself half-way up, only
immediately to fall back. junior stood for an instant imitatively
reaching up with his baby hands, then abandoning the attempt waddled
off after a big butterfly. Honey-Boy slipped and slid to the ground,
but he was up in an instant and at it again.
Angela fluttered with baby-violence. Julia opened her arms. The
child leaped from her lap, started half-running, half-flying, caught a
seaward going breeze, sailed to the top of the boulder. She balanced
herself there, gazing triumphantly down on Billy-Boy who, flat on his
stomach, red in the face, his black eyes bulging out of his head,
still pulled and tugged and strained.
"Honey-Boy's tried to climb that rock every day for three months,"
Lulu boasted proudly. "He'll do it some day. I never saw such
persistence. If he gets a thing into his head, I can't do anything
"Angela starts to climb it occasionally," Peachy said. "But, of
course, I always stop her. I'm afraid she'll hurt her feet."
Above the rock stretched the bough of a big pine. As she
contemplated it, a look of wonder grew in Angela's eyes, of question,
of uncertainty. Suddenly it became resolution. She spread her wings,
bounded into the air, fluttered upwards, and alighted squarely on the
"Oh, Angela!" Peachy called anxiously. Then, joyously, "Look at my
baby. She'll be flying as high as we did in a few years. Oh, how I
love to think of that!"
She laughed in glee—and the others laughed with her. They
continued to watch Angela's antics, their faces growing more and more
gay. Julia alone did not smile; but she watched the exhibition none
the less steadily.
Three years had brought some changes to the women of Angel Island;
and for the most part they were devastating changes. They were still
wingless. They wore long trailing garments that concealed their feet.
These garments differed in color and decoration, but they were alike
in one detail-floating, wing-like draperies hung from the shoulders.
Chiquita had grown so large as to be almost unwieldy. But her
tropical coloring retained its vividness, retained its breath-taking
quality of picturesqueness, retained its alluring languor. She sat now
holding a huge fan. Indeed, since the day that Honey had piled the
fans on the beach, Chiquita had never been without one in her hand.
Scarlet, the scarlet of her lost pinions, seemed to be her color. Her
gown was scarlet.
Lulu had not grown big, but she had grown round. That look of the
primitive woman which had made her strange, had softened and sobered.
Her beaute troublante had gone. Her face was, the face of a happy
woman. The maternal look in her eyes was duplicated by the married
look in her figure. She was always busy. Even now, though she
chattered, she sewed; her little fingers fluttered like the wings of
an imprisoned bird. Indeed, she looked like a little sober mother-bird
in her gray and brown draperies. She was the best housewife among
them. Honey lacked no creature comfort.
Clara also had filled out; in figure, she had improved; her elfin
thinness had become slimness, delicately curved and subtly contoured.
Also her coloring had deepened; she was like a woman cast in gold. But
her expression was not pleasant. Her light, gray-green eyes had a
petulant look; her thin, red lips a petulant droop. She was restless;
something about her moved always. Either her long slender fingers
adjusted her hair or her long slender feet beat a tattoo. And ever her
figure shifted from one fluid pose to another. She wore jewels in her
elaborately arranged hair, jewels about her neck, on her wrists, on
her fingers. Her green draperies were embroidered in beads. She was,
in fact, always dressed, costumed is perhaps the most appropriate
word. She dressed Peterkin picturesquely too; she was always, studying
the illustrations in their few books for ideas. Clara was one of those
women at whom instinctively other women gaze—and gaze always with a
question in their eyes.
Peachy was at the height of her blonde bloom; all pearl and gold,
all rose and aquamarine. But something had gone out of her face—
brilliance. And something had come into it—pathos. The look of a
mischievous boy had turned to a wild gipsy look of strangeness, a look
of longing mixed with melancholy. In some respects there was more
history written on her than on any of the others. But it was tragic
history. At Angela's birth Peachy had gone insane. There had come
times when for hours she shrieked or whispered, "My wings! My wings!
My wings!" The devoted care of the other four women had saved her; she
was absolutely normal now. Her figure still carried its suggestion of
a potential, young-boy-like strength, but maternity had given a droop,
exquisitely feminine, to the shoulders. She always wore blue—
something that floated and shimmered with every move.
Julia had changed little; for in her case, neither marriage nor
maternity had laid its transmogrifying, touch upon her. Her deep
blue-gray eyes—of which the brown-gold lashes seemed like reeds
shadowing lonely lakes—had turned as strange as Peachy's; but it was
a different strangeness. Her mouth—that double sculpturesque ripple
of which the upper lip protruded an infinitesimal fraction beyond the
lower one—drooped like Clara's; but it drooped with a different
expression. She had the air of one who looks ever into the distance
and broods on what she sees there. Perhaps because of this, her voice
had deepened to a thrilling intensity. Her hair was pulled straight
back to her neck from the perfect oval of her face. It hung in a
single, honey-colored braid, and it hung to the very ground. She
always wore white.
"Do you remember"—Chiquita began presently. Her lazy purring
voice grew soft with tenderness. The dreamy, unthinking Chiquita of
four years back seemed suddenly to peer through the unwieldy Chiquita
of the present—"how we used to fly—and fly—and fly—just for
the love of flying? Do you remember the long, bright day-flyings and
the long, dark night-flyings?
"And sometimes how we used to drop like stones until we almost
touched the water," Lulu said, a sparkle in her cooing, friendly
little voice. "And the races! Oh, what fun! I can feel the rush of the
"Over the water." Peachy flung her long, slim arms upward and a
delicious smile sent the tragedy scurrying from her sunlit face. "Do
you remember how wonderful it was at sunset? The sky heaving over us,
shot with gold and touched with crimson. The sea pulsing under us
lined with crimson and splashed with gold. And then the sunset ahead—
that gold and crimson hole in the sky. We used to think we could fly
through it some day and come out on another world. And sometimes we
could not tell where sea and sky joined. How we flew—on and on—
farther each time— on and on—and on. The risks we took! Sometimes I
used to wonder if we'd ever have the strength to get home. Yet I hated
to turn back. I hated to turn away from the light. I never could fly
towards the east at sunset, nor towards the west at sunrise. It hurt!
I used to think, when my time came to die, that I would fly out to sea
- on and on till I dropped."
"I loved it most at noon," Chiquita said, "when the air was soft.
It smelled sweet; a mixture of earth and sea. I used to drift and
float on great seas of heat until I almost slept. That was wonderful;
it was like swimming in a perfumed air or flying in a fragrant sea."
"Oh, but the storms, Julia!" Lulu exclaimed. A wild look flared in
her face, wiped oft entirely its superficial look of domesticity. "Do
you remember the heavy, night-black cloud, the thunder that crashed
through our very bodies, the lightning that nearly blinded us, and the
rain that beat us almost to pieces?"
"Oh, Lulu!" Julia said; "I had forgotten that. You were wonderful
in a storm, How you used to shout and sing and leap through the air
like a wild thing! I used to love to watch you, and yet I was always
afraid that you would hurt yourself."
"I loved the moonlight most. I do now." The petulance went out of
Clara's eyes; dreams came into its place. "The cool softness of the
air, the brilliant sparkle of the stars! And then the magic of the
moonlight! Young child-moon, half-grown girl-moon, voluptuous
woman-moon, sallow, old-hag-moon, it was alike to me. Pete says I'm
'fey' in the moonlight. He, says I'm Irish then."
"I loved the sunrise," said Julia. "I used to steal out, when you
girls were still sleeping, to fly by dawn. I'd go up, up, up. At
first, it was like a huge dewdrop—that morning world—then, colder
and colder—it was like a melted iceberg. But I never minded that
cold and I loved the clearness. It exhilarated me. I used to run races
with the birds. I was not happy until I had beaten the highest-flying
of them all. Oh, it was so fresh and clean then. The world seemed
new-made every morning. I used to feel that I'd caught the moment when
yesterday became to-day. Then I'd sink back through layer on layer of
sunlight and warm, perfume-laden, dew-damp breeze, down, down until I
fell into my bed again. And all the time the world grew warmer and
warmer. And I loved almost as well that instant of twilight when the
world begins to fade. I used to feel that I'd caught the moment when
to-day had become to-morrow. I'd fly as high as I could go then, too.
Then I'd sink back through layer on layer of deepening dusk, while one
by one the stars would flash out at me—down, down, down until my
feet touched the water. And all the time the air grew cooler and
"My wings! My wings!" Peachy did not shriek these words with
maniacal despair. She did not whisper them with dreary resignation.
She breathed them with the rapture of one who looks through a narrow,
dark tunnel to measureless reaches of sun-tinted cloud and sea.
"Do you remember the first time we ever saw them?" Lulu asked after
a long time. This was obviously a deliberate harking back to lighter
things. A gleam of reminiscence, both mischievous and tender, fired
her slanting eyes.
The others smiled, too. Even Peachy's face relaxed from the look of
tension that had come into it. "I often think that was the happiest
time," she sighed, "those weeks before they knew we were here. At
least, they knew and they didn't know. Ralph said that they all
suspected that something curious was going on—but that they were so
afraid that the others would joke about it, that no one of them would
mention what was happening to him. Do you remember what fun it was
coming to the camp when they were asleep? Do you remember how we used
to study their faces to find out what kind of people they were?"
"And do you remember"—Chiquita rippled a low laugh—"how we
would leap into the air if they stirred or spoke in their sleep? Once,
Honey started to wake up—and we were off over the water before he
could get his eyes open."
"Oh, but Honey told me that he heard us laugh that time," Lulu
explained. "He told the men the next day and, oh, how they joked him."
"And then," Chiquita went on, "once Billy actually did wake up. You
were bending over him, Julia. I remember we all kept as still as the
dead. And you—oh, Julia, you were wonderful—you did not even
breathe. He seemed to fade back into sleep again."
"He says now that I hypnotized him," Julia explained.
"Do you remember," Clara took it up, "that we even considered
kidnapping one of them? If we'd known what to do with him, I think we
might have tried it."
"Yes," said Chiquita. "But I think it was just as well we didn't.
We wouldn't have carried it off well. There's something about them
that's terrifying. Do you remember that time we saved Honey from the
shark, how we trembled all the time we carried him through the air. He
knew it, too —I noticed how triumphantly he smiled."
"Honey told me once"—Lulu lowered her voice—"that it was the
fact that we trembled—that we seemed so much women, in spite of
being creatures of the air—that made him determine to capture us."
"Well, there's something about them that weakens you," Chiquita
said in a puzzled tone. "It's like a spell. At first I always felt
quivery and trembly if I stood near them."
"It's power," Julia explained.
"I used even to be afraid of their voices," Chiquita went on.
"Oh, so was I," Lulu agreed. "I felt as I did when I heard thunder
for the first time. It went through me. It made me shake. I was
afraid, but I wanted to hear it again."
"Do you remember the first time we saw them walk!" Clara said. Her
face twisted with the expression of a past loathing. "How it disgusted
us! It seemed to me the most hideous motion I had ever seen—so
unnatural, so ungraceful, so repellent. It took me a long time to get
used to that. And as for their running—"
"It's curious how that feeling still lingers in us," exclaimed
Peachy. "That contempt for the thing that walks. Occasionally Angela
starts to imitate the boys—it seems as if I would fly out of my skin
with horror. I shall always feel superior to Ralph, I know."
"Do you remember the first talks we ever had after we'd got our
first glimpse of them?" asked Clara. "How astonished we were—and
half frightened and yet—in a queer way—excited and curious?
"And after we got over our fright," Lulu carried the memories
along, "and had made up our minds we didn't care whether they
discovered us or not, what fun we had with them! How we played over
the entire island and yet it took them such a long time to discover
"Oh, they're awfully stupid about seeing or guessing things,"
Peachy said disdainfully. "My mind always leaps way ahead of Ralph's."
"Do you remember that at first we used to have regular councils,"
Lulu asked, "before—before—- "
"Before we agreed each to go her own way," Peachy finished it for
"All of us pitted against you, Julia." Chiquita sighed. "I often
think now, Julia, how you used to talk to us. How you used to beg us
not to go to the island. How you argued with us! The prophecies you
made! They've all come true. I can hear you now: 'Don't go to the
island.' 'Come away with me and we will fly back south before it is
too late.' 'Come away while you can!' 'In a little while it will be
too late.' In a little while I shall not be able to help you!"
"And how we fought you, Julia!" Clara said. "How we denied
everything you said, every one of us knowing in her heart that you
"But," Julia said, "later, I told you that I might not be able to
help myself, and you see I wasn't."
"Did they ever guess that we had quarrelled, I wonder?" Clara
"Yes," Lulu answered eagerly. Honey guessed it. Now, wasn't that
clever of him?"
"Not so very," Clara replied languidly. "I guessed that they had
quarrelled. And I had a strong suspicion," she added consciously,
"that it was about us."
"I wonder," Peachy said somberly, "what would have happened if we
had taken Julia's advice."
"Are you sorry, Peachy?" Julia asked.
"No, I'm not sorry exactly," Peachy answered slowly. "I have
Angela, of course. Are you sorry, Julia?"
"No," replied Julia.
"Julia," Peachy said, "what was it changed you? I have always
wanted to ask but I have never dared. What brought you to the island
finally? What made you give up the fight with us?"
The far-away look in Julia's eyes grew, if possible, more far-away.
She did not speak for a while. Then, "I'll tell you," she said simply.
"It is something that I have never told anybody but Billy. When you
first began to leave me to come to this island alone, I was very
unhappy. And I grew more and more unhappy. I missed flying with you.
And especially flying by night. Flying alone seemed melancholy. I came
here at first, only because I was driven by my loneliness. I said to
myself that I'd drift with the current. But that did not help any. You
were all so interested in your lovers that it made no difference
whether I was with you or not. I began to think that you no longer
cared for me, that you had out-grown me, that all my influence over
you had vanished, that, if I were out of the way, the one tie which
held you to me would break and you would go to these men. I grew more
and more unhappy every instant. That was not all. I was in love with
Billy, but I did not know it. I only knew that I was moody and strange
and in desperate despair. And, so, one day I decided to kill myself."
There was a faint movement in the group, but it was only the swish
of draperies as the four recumbent women came upright. They stared at
Julia. They did not speak. They seemed scarcely to breathe.
"One day, I flew up and up. Never before had I gone half so high.
But I flew deliberately higher and higher until I became cold and
colder and numb and frozen—until my wings stopped. And then—" She
"What happened?" Clara asked breathlessly.
"I dropped. I dropped like a stone. But—but—the instant I let
myself go, something strange happened—a miracle of self-revelation.
I knew that I loved Billy, that I could not live in any world where he
could not come to me. And the instant that I realized that I loved
him, I knew also that I could not die. I tried to spread my wings but
they would not open. It was terrific. And that sense of despair, that
my wings which had always responded—would not—now—oh, that was
hell. How I fought! How I struggled! It was as though iron bands were
about me. I strained. I tore. Of course, all this was only a moment.
But one thinks a million things in a moment like that—one lives a
thousand years. It seemed an eternity. At last my wings opened and
spread. They held. I floated until I caught my breath. Then I dropped
slowly. I threw myself over the bough of a tree. I lay there."
There was an interval of intense silence.
"Did you faint?" Peachy asked in an awed voice.
"You wept, Julia?" Peachy said. "You!"
"I had not wept since my childhood. It was strange. It frightened
me almost as much as the fall. Oh, how fast the tears came—and in
such floods! Something melted and went away from me then. A softness
came over me. It was like a spell. I have never been the same creature
since. I cry easily now."
"Did you tell Billy?" Clara asked.
"He saw me," Julia answered.
"He saw—." It came from her four listeners as from one woman.
"That's what changed him. That's what determined him to help
capture us. He said that he was afraid I would try it again. I
wouldn't have, though."
Nobody spoke for a long time.
"Julia! It was Chiquita who broke the silence this time. There is
something I, too, have always wanted to ask you. But I have never
dared before. What was it tempted you to go into the Clubhouse that
day? At first you tried to keep us from going in. You never seemed to
care for any of the things they gave us. You threw away the fans and
the slippers and the scarfs. And you smashed your mirror."
"Billy asked me this same question once," Julia answered. "It was
that big diamond—the Wilmington 'Blue.' I caught a glimpse of it
through the doorway as it lay all by itself on the table, flashing in
the sunlight. I had never before in my life seen any thing that I
really wanted. But this was so exquisite, so chiseled, so tiny, so
perfect, There was so much fire and color in it. It seemed like a
living creature. I was enchanted by it. When I told Billy, he laughed.
He said that the lust for diamonds was a recognized earth-disease
among earth-people, especially earth-women. He said that many women
had been ruined by it. He said that it was a common saying among men
that you could catch any woman in a trap baited with diamonds. I have
never got over the sting of that. I blush always when I think of it.
Because— although I don't exactly understand why—it was not quite
true in my case. That is a thing which always bothers me in
conversation with the men. They talk about us as if they knew all
about us. You'd think they'd invented us. Not that we're not simple
enough. We're perfectly simple, but they've never bothered to study
us. They say so many things about us, for instance, that are only half
true—and yet I don't know exactly how to confute them. None of us
would presume to say such things about them. I'm glad," she ended with
a sudden fierceness, "that I threw the diamond away."
"Julia," and now it was Lulu who questioned, "why do you not marry
Billy when you love him so?" The seriousness of her tone, the warmth
of affection in her little brown face robbed this question of any
appearance of impertinence.
"Lulu," Julia answered simply, "I don't know why. Only that
something inside has always said, 'Wait!'"
"Well, you did well," Peachy said bitterly, for, at least, Billy
loves you just as much as at first. I don't see him racing over to the
Clubhouse the moment his dinner is eaten. I don't see him spending his
Sundays in long exploring tramps. I don't see him making plans to go
off into the interior for a week at a time."
"But he would be just like all the others, Julia," Clara exclaimed
carefully, "if you'd married him. Keep out of it as long as you can!"
"Don't ever marry him, Julia," Chiquita warned. "Keep your life a
"Marry him to-morrow, Julia," Lulu advised. "Oh, I cannot think
what my life would have been without Honey-Boy and Honey-Bunch."
"I shall marry Billy sometime," Julia said. "But I don't know when.
When that little inner voice stops saying, 'Wait!'"
"I wonder," Peachy questioned again, "what would have happened if—
"It would have come out just the same way. Depend on that!"
Chiquita said philosophically. "It was our fate—the Great Doom that
our people used to talk of. And, after all, it's our own fault. Come
to this island we would and come we did! And this is the end of it—
we—we sit moveless from sun-up to sun-down, we who have soared into
the clouds. But there is a humorous element in it. And if I didn't
weep, I could laugh myself mad over it. We sit here helpless and watch
these creatures who walk desert us daily—desert us—creatures who
flew—leave us here helpless and alone."
"But in the beginning," Lulu interposed anxiously, "they did try to
take us with them. But it tired them so to carry us—for or that's—
what in effect they do."
"And there was one time just after we were married when it was all
wonderful," said Peachy. "I did not even miss the flying, for it
seemed to me that Ralph made up for the loss of my wings by his love
and service. Then, they began to build the New Camp and gradually
everything changed. You see, they love their work more than they do
us. Or at least it seems to interest them more."
"Why not?" Julia interpolated quietly. "We're the same all the
time. We don't change and grow. Their work does change and grow. It
presents new aspects every day, new questions and problems and
difficulties, new answers and solutions and adjustments. It makes them
think all the time. They love to think." She added this as one who
announces a discovery, long pondered over. "They enjoy thinking."
"Yes," Lulu agreed wonderingly, "that's true, isn't it? That never
occurred to me. They really do like thinking. How curious! I hate to
"I never think," Chiquita announced.
"I won't think," Peachy exclaimed passionately. "I feel. That's the
way to live."
"I don't have to think," Clara declared proudly. "I've something
better than thought-instinct and intuition."
Julia was silent.
"Julia is like them," Lulu said, studying Julia's absent face
tenderly. "She likes to think. It doesn't hurt, or bother, or
irritate, or tire— or make her look old. It's as easy for her as
breathing. That's why the men like to talk to her."
"Well," Clara remarked triumphantly, "I don't have to think in
order to have the men about me. I'm very glad of that."
This was true. The second year of their stay in Angel Island, the
other four women had rebuked Clara for this tendency to keep men about
her— without thinking.
"It is not necessary for us to think," said Peachy with a sudden,
spirited lift of her head from her shoulders. The movement brought
back some of her old-time vivacity and luster. Her thick, brilliant,
springy hair seemed to rise a little from her forehead. And under her
draperies that which remained of what had once been wings stirred
faintly. "They must think just as they must walk because they are
earth-creatures. They cannot exist without infinite care and labor. We
don't have to think any more than we have to walk; for we are
air-creatures. And air-creatures only fly and feel. We are superior to
"Peachy," Julia said again. Her voice thrilled as though some
thought, long held quiescent within her, had burst its way to
expression. It rang like a bugle. It vibrated like a violin-string.
"That is the mistake we've made all our lives; a mistake that has held
us here tied to this camp for or four our years;the idea that we are
superior in some way, more strong, more beautiful, more good than
they. But think a moment! Are we? True, we are as you say, creatures
of the air. True, we were born with wings. But didn't we have to come
down to the earth to eat and sleep, to love, to marry, and to bear our
young? Our trouble is that—"
And just then, "Here they come!" Lulu cried happily.
Lulu's eyes turned away from the group of women. Her brown face had
lighted as though somebody had placed a torch beside it. The strings
of little dimples that her plumpness had brought in its wake played
about her mouth.
The trail that emerged from the jungle ran between bushes, and
gradually grew lower and lower, until it merged with a path shooting
straight across the sand to the Playground.
For a while the heads of the file of men appeared above the bushes;
then came shoulders, waists, knees; finally the entire figures. They
strode through the jungle with the walk of conquerors.
They were so absorbed in talk as not to realize that the camp was
in sight. Every woman's eye—and some subtle revivifying excitement
temporarily dispersed the discontent there—had found her mate long
before he remembered to look in her direction.
The children heard the voices and immediately raced, laughing and
shouting, to meet their fathers. Angela, beating her pinions in a very
frenzy of haste, arrived first. She fluttered away from outstretched
arms until she reached Ralph; he lifted her to his breast, carried her
snuggled there, his lips against her hair. Honey and Pete absently
swung their sons to their shoulders and went on talking. Junior, tired
out by his exertions, sat down plumply half-way. Grinning radiantly,
he waited for the procession to overtake him.
"Peachy," Julia asked in an aside, "have you ever asked Ralph what
he intends to do about Angela's wings? "
"What he intends to do?" Peachy echoed. "What do you mean? What can
he intend to do? What has he to say about them, anyway?"
"He may not intend anything," Julia answered gravely. "Still, if I
were you, I'd have a talk with him."
Time had brought its changes to the five men as to the five women;
but they were not such devastating changes.
Honey led the march, a huge wreath of uprooted blossoming plants
hanging about his neck. He was at the prime of his strength, the
zenith of his beauty and, in the semi-nudity that the climate
permitted, more than ever like a young wood-god. Health shone from his
skin in a copper-bronze that seemed to overlay the flesh like armor.
Happiness shone from his eyes in a fire-play that seemed never to die
down. One year more and middle age might lay its dulling finger upon
him. But now he positively flared with youth.
Close behind Honey came Billy Fairfax, still shock-headed, his
blond hair faded to tow, slimmer, more serious, more fine. His eyes
ran ahead of the others, found Julia's face, lighted up. His gaze
lingered there in a tender smile.
Just over Billy's shoulder, Pete appeared, a Pete as thin and
nervous as ever, the incipient black beard still prickling in tiny
ink-spots through a skin stained a deep mahogany. There was some
subtle change in Pete that was not of the flesh but of the spirit.
Perhaps the look in his face—doubly wild of a Celt and of a genius—
had tamed a little. But in its place had come a question: undoubtedly
he had gained in spiritual dignity and in humorous quality.
Ralph Addington followed Pete. And Ralph also had changed. True, he
retained his inalienable air of elegance, an elegance a little too
sartorial. And even after six years of the jungle, he maintained his
picturesqueness. Long-haired, liquid-eyed, still with a beard
symmetrically pointed and a mustache carefully cropped, he was more
than ever like a young girl's idea of an artist. And yet something
different had come into his face, The slight touch of gray in his wavy
hair did not account for it; nor the lines, netting delicately his
long-lashed eyes. The eyes themselves bore a baffled expression, half
of revolt, half of resignation; as one who has at last found the
immovable obstacle, who accepts the situation even while he rebels
At the end of the line came Merrill, a doubly transformed man,
looking at the same time younger and handsomer. Bigger and even more
muscular than formerly, his eyes were wide open and sparkling, his
mouth had lost its rigidity of contour. His look of severity, of
asceticism had vanished. Nothing but his classic regularity remained
and that had been beautifully colored by the weather.
The five couples wound through the trail which led from the
Playground to the Camp, the men half-carrying their wives with one arm
about their waists and the other supporting them.
The Camp had changed. The original cabins had spread by an addition
of one or two or three to sprawling bungalow size. Not an atom of
their wooden structure showed. Blocks of green, cubes of color, only
open doorways and windows betrayed that they were dwelling-places. A
tide of tropical jungle beat in waves of green with crests of rainbow
up to the very walls. There it was met by a backwash of the vines
which embowered the cabins, by a stream of blossoms which flooded and
cascaded down their sides.
The married ones stopped at the Camp. But Billy and Julia continued
up the beach.
"How did the work go to-day, Honey?" Lulu asked in a perfunctory
tone as they moved away from the Playground.
"Fine!" Honey answered enthusiastically.
"You wait until you see Recreation Hall." He stopped to light his
pipe. "Lord, how I wish I had some real tobacco! It's going to be a
corker. We've decided to enlarge the plan by another three feet."
"Have you really?" commented Lulu. "Dear me, you've torn your shirt
"Yes," said Honey, puffing violently, "a nail. And we're going to
have a tennis court at one side not a little squeezed-up affair like
this—but a big, fine one. We're going to lay out a golf course, too.
That will be some job, Mrs. Holworthy D. Smith, and don't you forget
"Yes, I should think it would be," agreed Lulu. "Do you know,
Honey, Clara's an awful cat! She's dreadfully jealous of Peachy. The
things she says to her! She knows Pete's still half in love with her.
Peachy understands him on his art side as Clara can't. Clara simply
hands it to Pete if he looks at Peachy. Even when she knows that he
knows, that we all know, that she tried her best to start a flirtation
"And to-day," Honey interrupted eagerly, "we doped out a scheme for
a series of canals to run right round the whole place—with gardens
on the bank. You see we can pipe the lake water and—- ."
"That will be great," said Lulu, but there was no enthusiasm in her
tone. "And really, Honey, Peachy's in a dreadful state of nerves. Of
course, she knows that Ralph is still crazy about Julia and always
will be, just because Julia's like a stone to him—oh, you know the
kind of a man Ralph is. The only woman you can depend on him to be
faithful to is the one that won't have him round. I don't think that
bothers Peachy, though. She adores Julia. If she could fly a little
while in the afternoon—an hour, say—I know it would cure her."
"Too bad. But, of course, we couldn't let you girls fly again.
Besides, I doubt very much if, after so many cuttings, your wings
would ever grow big enough. You don't realize it yourself, perhaps,
but you're much more healthy and normal without wings."
"I don't mind being without them so much myself"—Lulu's tone was
a little doubtful—"though I think they would help me with Honey-Boy
and Honey-Bunch. Sometimes—." She did not finish.
"And then," Honey went on decidedly, "it's not natural for women to
fly. God never intended them to."
"It is wonderful," Lulu said admiringly, "how men know exactly what
Honey roared. "If you'd ever heard the term sarcasm, my dear, I
should think you were slipping something over on me. In point of fact,
we don't know what God intended. Nobody does. But we know better than
you; the man's life broadens us."
"Then I should think—" Lulu began. But again she did not finish.
"We're going to make a tower of rocks on the central island of the
lake," Honey went on. "We'll drag the stones from the beach—those
big, beauty round ones. When it's finished, we're going to cover it
with that vine which has the scarlet, butterfly flowers. Pete says the
reflections in the water will be pretty neat."
"Really. It sounds charming. And, Honey, Chiquita is so lazy.
Little Junior runs wild. He's nearly two and she hasn't made a strip
of clothing for him yet. It's Frank's fault, though. He never notices
anything. I really think you men ought to do something about that."
"And then," Honey went on. But he stopped. "What's the use? " he
muttered under his breath. He subsided, enveloped himself in a cloud
of smoke and listened, half-amused, half-irritated, to Lulu's
pauseless, squirrel-like chatter.
"My dear," Frank Merrill said to Chiquita after dinner, "the New
Camp is growing famously. Six months more and you will be living in
your new home. The others—Pete especially—are very much interested
in Recreation Hall. They have just worked out a new scheme for parks
and gardens. It is very interesting, though purely decorative. It
offers many absorbing problems. But, for my own part, I must confess I
am more interested in the library. It will be most gratifying to see
all our books ranged on shelves, classified and catalogued at last. It
is a good little library as amateur libraries go. The others speak
again and again of my foresight during those early months in taking
care of the books. We have many fine books—what people call solid
reading—and a really extraordinary collection of dictionaries. You
see, many scholars travel in the Orient, and they feel they must get
up on all kinds of things. I suggested to-day that we draw up a
constitution for Angel Island. For by the end of twenty years, there
will be a third generation growing up here. And then, the population
will increase amazingly. Besides, it offers many subjects for
discussion in our evenings at the Clubhouse, etc., etc., etc."
Holding the tired-out little junior in her lap, Chiquita rocked and
fanned herself and napped—and woke—and rocked and fanned herself
and napped again.
"Oh, don't bore me with any talk about the New Camp," Clara was
saying to Pete. "I'm not an atom interested in it."
"But you're going to live there sometime," Pete remonstrated,
wrinkling in perplexity his fiery, freckled face.
"Yes, but I don't feel as if I were. It's all so far away. And I
never see it. If I had anything to say about it, I might feel
differently. But I haven't. So please don't inflict it on me."
"But it's the inspiration of building it for you women," Pete said
gravely, "that makes us men work like slaves. We're only doing it for
your sake. It is the expression of our love and admiration for you."
"Oh, slush!" exclaimed Clara flippantly, borrowing from Honey's
vocabulary. "You're building it to please yourself. Besides, I don't
want to be an inspiration for anything."
"All right, then," Pete said in an aggrieved tone. "But you are an
inspiration, just the same. It is the chief vocation of women." He
moved over to the desk and took up a bunch of papers there.
"Oh, are you going to write again this evening?" Clara asked in a
burst of despair.
"Yes." Pete hesitated. "I thought I'd work for an hour or two and
then I'd go out."
Clara groaned. "If you leave me another minute of this day, I shall
go mad. I've had nothing but housework all the morning and then a
little talk with the girls, late this afternoon. I want something
"Well, let me read the third act to you," Pete offered.
"No, I don't feel like being read to. I want some excitement."
Pete sighed, and put his manuscript down.
"All right. Let's go in swimming. But I'll have to leave you after
"Are you going to see Peachy?" Clara demanded shrilly.
"No." Pete's tone was stern. "I'm going to the Clubhouse."
"How has everything gone to-day, Billy?" Julia asked, as they sat
looking out to sea.
"Rather well," Billy answered. "We were all in a working mood and
all in good spirits. We've done more to-day than we've done in any
three days before. At noon, while we were eating our lunch, I showed
them your plans."
"You didn't say—."
"I didn't peep. I promised, you know. I let them assume that they
were mine. They went wild over them, threw all kinds of fits. You see,
Pete has a really fine artistic sense that's going to waste in all
these minor problems of construction and drainage. I flatter myself
that I, too, have some taste. Addington and Honey are both good
workmen—that is, they work steadily under instruction. Merrill's
only an inspired plumber, of course. Pete and I have been feeling for
a long time that we wanted to do something more creative, more
esthetic. This is just the thing we needed. I'm glad you thought it
out; for I was beginning to grow stale. I sometimes wonder what will
happen when the New Camp is entirely built and there's nothing else to
Billy's voice had, in spite of his temperamental optimism, a dull
note of unpleasant anticipation.
"There'll be plenty to do after that." Julia smiled reassuringly.
"I'm working on a plan to lay out the entire island. That will take
years and years and years. Even then you'll need help."
"That, my beloved," Billy said, "until the children grow up, is
just what we can't get—help."
Julia was silent.
"Julia," he went on, after an interval, in which neither spoke,
"won't you marry me? I'm lonely."
The poignant look—it was almost excruciating now—came into
"Not now, Billy," she answered.
"And yet you say you love me!"
The sadness went. Julia's face became limpid as water, bright as
light, warm as flame. "I love you," she said. "I love you! I love
you!" She went on reiterating these three words. And with every
iteration, the thrill in her voice seemed to deepen. "And, Billy—."
"I'm not quite sure when—but I know I'm going to marry you some
"I'll wait, then," Billy promised. "As long as I know you love me,
I can wait until—the imagination of man has not conceived the limit
"Well, how have you been to-day?" Ralph asked. But before Peachy
could speak, he answered himself in a falsetto voice that parodied her
round, clear accents, I want to fly! I want to fly! I want to fly!"
His tone was not ill-tempered, however; and his look was humorously a
affectionate, as one who has asked the same question many times and
received the same answer.
"I do want to fly, Ralph," Peachy said listlessly. "Won't you let
me? Oh, please let my wings grow again?"
Ralph shook his head inflexibly. "Couldn't do it, my dear. It's not
womanly. The air is no place for a woman. The earth is her home."
"That's not argument," Peachy asserted haughtily. "That's
statement. Not that I want to argue the question. My argument is
unanswerable. Why did we have wings, if not to fly. But I don't want
to quarrel—." Her voice sank to pleading. "I'd always be here when
you came back. You'd never see me flying. It would not prevent me from
doing my duty as your wife or as Angela's mother. In fact, I could do
it better because it would make me so happy and well. After a while, I
could take Angela with me. Oh, that would be rapture!" Peachy's eyes
Ralph shook his head. "Couldn't think of it, my dear. The clouds
are no place for my wife. Besides, I doubt if your wings would ever
grow after the clipping to which we've submitted them. Now, put
something on, and I'll carry you down on the beach."
"Tell me about the New Camp, and what you did to-day!" Peachy
asked, after an interval in which she visibly struggled for control.
"Oh, Lord, ask anything but that," Addington exclaimed with a
sudden gust of his old irritability. "I work hard enough all day. When
I get home, I want to talk about something else. It rests me not to
think of it."
"But, Ralph," Peachy entreated, "I could help you. I know I could.
I have so many ideas about things. You know Pete says I'm a real
artist. It would interest me so much if you would only talk over the
building plans with me."
"I don't know that I am particularly interested in Pete's opinion
of your abilities," Addington rejoined coldly. "My dear little girl,"
he went on, palpably striving for patience and gentleness, "there's
nothing you could do to help me. Women are too impractical. This is a
man's work, besides. By the way, after we've had our little outing,
I'll leave you with Lulu. Honey and Pete and I are going to meet at
the Clubhouse to work over some plans."
"All right," Peachy said. She added, "I guess I won't go out, after
all. I feel tired. I think I'll lie down for a while."
"Anything I can do for you, dear?" Addington asked tenderly as he
"Nothing, thank you." Peachy's voice was stony. Then suddenly she
pulled herself upright on the couch. "Oh—Ralph—one minute. I want
to talk to you about Angela. Her wings are growing so fast."
"Where's Peachy?" Julia asked casually the next afternoon.
"I've been wondering where she was, too," Lulu answered. "I think
she must have slept late this morning. I haven't seen her all day."
"Is Angela with the children now?" Julia went on.
"I suppose so," Lulu replied. She lifted herself from the couch.
Shading her hands, she studied the group at the water's edge.
Honey-Boy and Peterkin were digging wells in the sand. Junior making
futile imitative movements, followed close at their heels. Near the
group of women, Honey-Bunch crept across the mat of pine-needles,
chasing an elusive sunbeam. "No, she's not there."
"Now that I think of it, Angela didn't come to play with Peterkin
this morning," said Clara. "Generally she comes flying over just after
"You don't suppose Peachy's ill," asked Chiquita, "or Angela."
"Oh, no!" Lulu answered. "Ralph would have told one of us."
"Here she comes up the trail now," Chiquita exclaimed. "Angela's
"Yes—but what's the matter?" Lulu cried.
"She's all bent over and she's staggering."
"She's crying," said Clara, after a long, intent look.
"Yes," said Lulu. "She's crying hard. And look at Angela—the
darling! She's trying to comfort her."
Peachy was coming slowly towards them; slowly because, although
both hands were on the rail, she staggered and stumbled. At intervals,
she dropped and crawled on hands and knees. At intervals, convulsions
of sobbing shook her, but it was voiceless sobbing. And those silent
cataclysms, taken with her blind groping progress, had a sinister
quality. Lulu and Julia tottered to meet her. "What is it, oh, what is
it, Peachy?" they cried.
Peachy did not reply immediately. She fought to control herself.
"Go down to the beach, baby," she said firmly to Angela. "Stay there
until mother calls you. Fly away!"
The little girl fluttered irresolutely. "Fly away, dear!" Peachy
repeated. Angela mounted a breeze and made off, whirling, circling,
dipping, and soaring, in the direction of the water. Once or twice,
she paused, dropped and, bounding from earth to air, turned her
frightened eyes back to her mother's face. But each time, Peachy waved
her on. Angela joined Honey-Boy and Peterkin. For a moment she poised
in the air; then she sank and began languidly to dig in the sand.
"I couldn't let her hear it," Peachy said. "It's about her. Ralph—
." She lost control of herself for a moment; and now her sobs had
voice. "I asked him last night about Angela and her flying. I don't
exactly know why I did. It was something you said to me yesterday,
Julia, that put it into my head. He said that when she was eighteen,
he was going to cut her wings just as he cut mine."
There came clamor from her listeners. "Cut Angela's wings!" "Why?"
Peachy shook her head. "I don't know yet why, although he tried all
night, to make me understand. He said that he was going to cut them
for the same reason that he cut mine. He said that it was all right
for her to fly now when she was a baby and later when she was a very
young girl, that it was 'girlish' and 'beautiful' and 'lovely' and
'charming' and 'fascinating' and—and—a lot of things. He said that
he could not possibly let her fly when she became a woman, that then
it would be 'unwomanly' and 'unlovely' and 'uncharming' and
'unfascinating.' He said that even if he were weak enough to allow it,
her husband never would. I could not understand his argument. I could
not. It was as if we were talking two languages. Besides, I could
scarcely talk, I cried so. I've cried for hours and hours and hours."
"Sit down, Peachy," Julia advised gently. "Let us all sit down."
The women sank to their couches. But they did not lounge; they
continued to sit rigidly upright. "What are you going to do, Peachy?"
"I don't know. But I'll throw myself into the ocean with Angela in
my arms before I'll consent to have her wings cut. Why, the things he
said. Lulu, he said that Angela might marry Honey-Boy, as they were
the nearest of age. He said that Honey-Boy would certainly cut her
wings, that he, no more than Honey, could endure a wife who flew. He
said that all earth-men were like that. Lulu, would you let your child
do—do— that to my child?"
Lulu's face had changed—almost horribly. Her eyes glittered
between narrowed lids. Her lips had pulled away from each other,
baring her teeth. "You tell Ralph he's mistaken about my son," she
"That's what I told him," Peachy went on in a breaking voice. "But
he said you wouldn't have anything to do or say about it. He said that
Honey-Boy would be trained in these matters by his father, not by his
mother. I said that you would fight them both. He asked me what chance
you would have against your husband and your son. He—he—he always
spoke as if Honey-Boy were more Honey's child than yours, and as
though Angela were more his child than mine. He said that he had
talked this question over with the other men when Angela's wings first
began to grow. He said that they made up their minds then that her
wings must be cut when she became a woman. I besought him not to do it
- I begged, I entreated, I pleaded. He said that nothing I could say
would change him. I said that you would all stand by me in this, and
he asked me what we five could do against them. He, called us five
tottering females. Oh, it grew dreadful. I shrieked at him, finally.
As he left, he said, 'Remember your first day in the Clubhouse, my
dear! That's my answer.'" She turned to Clara. "Clara, you are going
to bear a child in the spring. It may be a girl. Would you let son of
mine or any of these women clip her wings? Will you suffer Peterkin to
clip Angela's wings?"
Clara's whole aspect had fired. Flame seemed burst from her
gray-green eyes, sparks to shoot to from her tawny head. "I would
strike him dead first."
Peachy turned to Chiquita. The color had poured into Chiquita's
face until her full brown eyes glared from a purple mask. "You, too,
Chiquita. You may bear girl-children. Oh, will you help me?"
"I'll help you," Chiquita said steadily. She added after a pause,
"I cannot believe that they'll dare, though."
"Oh, they'll dare anything," Peachy said bitterly. Earth-men are
devils. What shall we do, Julia? she asked wearily.
Julia had arisen. She stood upright. Curiously, she did not totter.
And despite her shorn pinions, she seemed more than ever to tower like
some Winged Victory of the air. Her face ace glowed with rage. As on
that fateful day at the Clubhouse, it was as though a fire had been
built in an alabaster vase. But as they looked at her, a rush of tears
wiped the flame from her eyes. She sank back again on the couch. She
put her hands over her face and sobbed. "At last," she said strangely.
"At last! At last! At last!"
"What shall we do, Julia?" Peachy asked stonily.
"Rebel!" answered Julia.
"Refuse to let them cut Angela's wings."
"Oh, I would not dare open the subject with Ralph," Peachy said in
a terror-stricken voice. "In the mood he's in, he'd cut her wings
"I don't mean to tell him anything about it," Julia replied. "Rebel
in secret. I mean—they overcame us once by strategy. We must beat
them now by superior strategy."
"You don't really mean anything secret, do you, Julia?" Lulu
remonstrated. "That wouldn't be quite fair, would it?"
And curiously enough, Julia answered in the exact words that Honey
had used once. "Anything's fair in love or war—and this is both. We
can't be fair. We can't trust them. We trusted them once. Once is
enough for me."
"But how, Julia?" Peachy asked. Her voice had now a note of
querulousness in it. "How are we going to rebel?"
Julia started to speak. Then she paused. "There's something I must
ask you first. Tell me, all of you, what did you do with your wings
when the men cut them off?"
The rage faded out of the four faces. A strange reticence seemed to
blot out expression. The reticence changed to reminiscence, to a deep
Lulu spoke first. "I thought I was going to keep my wings as long
as I lived. I always thought of them as something wonderful, left over
from a happier time. I put them away, done up in silk. And at first I
used to look at them every day. But I was always sad afterwards—and
- and gradually, I stopped doing it. Honey hates to come home and find
me sad. Months went by—I only looked at them occasionally. And after
a while, I did not look at them at all. Then, one day, after Honey
built the fireplace for me, I saw that we needed something—to—to—
to sweep the hearth with. I tried all kinds of things, but nothing was
right. Then, suddenly, I remembered my wings. It had been two years
since I'd looked at them. And after that long time, I found that I
didn't care so much. And so—and so—one day I got them out and cut
them into little brooms for the hearth. Honey never said anything
about it—but I knew he knew. Somehow—." A strange expression came
into the face of the unanalytic Lulu. "I always have a feeling that
Honey enjoys using my wings about the hearth."
Julia hesitated. "What did you do, Chiquita?"
"Oh, I had all Lulu's feeling at first, of course. But it died as
hers did. You see this fan. You have often commented on how well I've
kept it all these years—I've mended it from month to month with
feathers from my own wings. The color is becoming to me—and Frank
likes me to carry a fan. He says that it makes him think of a country
called Spain that he always wanted to visit when he was a youth."
"And you, Clara?" Julia asked gently.
"Oh, I went through," Clara replied, "just what Lulu and Chiquita
did. Then, one day, I said to myself, 'What's the use of weeping over
a, dead thing?' I made my wings into wall-decorations. You're right
about Honey, Lulu." For a moment there was a shade of conscious
coquetry in Clara's voice. "I know that it gives Pete a feeling of
satisfaction—I don't exactly know why (unless it's a sense of having
conquered)—to see my wings tacked up on his bedroom walls."
Peachy did not wait for Julia to put the question to her. "As soon
as I could move, after they freed us from the Clubhouse, I threw mine
into the sea. I knew I should go mad if I kept them where I could see
them every day. Just to look at them was like a sharp knife going
through my heart. One night, while Ralph was asleep, I crawled out of
the house on my hands and knees, dragging them after me. I crept down
to the beach and threw them into the water. They did not sink—they
floated. I stayed until they drifted out of sight. The moon was up. It
shone on them. Oh, the glorious blue of them—and the glitter—the—
the—." But Peachy could not go on.
"What did you do with yours, Julia?" Lulu asked at last.
"I kept them until last night," Julia answered.
Among the ship's stuff was a beautiful carved chest. It was packed
with linen. Billy said it was some earth-girl's wedding outfit. I took
everything out of the chest and put my wings in it. Folded carefully,
they just fitted. I used to brood over them every night before I went
to bed. Oh, they were wonderful in the dark—as if the chest were
full of white fire. Many times I've waked up in the middle of the
night and gone to look at them. I don't know why, but I had to do it.
After a while, it hurt me so much that I made up my mind to lock the
chest forever; for I always wept. I could not help it."
Julia wept now. The tears poured down her cheeks. But she went on.
"After yesterday's talk, I thought this situation over for a long
time. Then I went to the chest, took out my wings, brought them
downstairs and —and—and—."
"What?" somebody whispered.
"Burned them!" Julia's deep voice swelled on the word "burned" as
though she still felt the scorching agony of that moment.
For a long moment, nobody spoke.
Julia asked their question for them. "Do you want to know why I did
it?" And without waiting, she answered, "Because I wanted to mark in
some way the end of my desire to fly. We must stop wanting to fly, we
women. We must stop wasting our energy brooding over what's past. We
must stop it at once. Not only that but—for Angela's sake and for
the sake of all girl-children who will be born on this island—we
must learn to walk."
"Learn to walk!" Peachy repeated. "Julia, have you gone mad? We
have always held out against this degradation. We must continue to do
so." Again came that proud lift of her shoulders, the vibrant stir of
wing-stumps. That would lower us to a level with men."
"But are we lowering ourselves?" Julia asked. Are they really on a
lower level? Isn't the earth as good as the air?"
"It's better, Julia," Lulu said unexpectedly. "The earth's a fine
place. It's warm and homelike. Things grow there. There's nothing in
"There are the stars," murmured Peachy.
"Yes," said Julia with a soft tenderness, "but we never reached
"The air-life may not have been better or finer," Peachy continued,
"but, somehow, it seemed clearer and purer. The earth's such a
cluttered place. It's so full of things. You can hardly see it for the
stuff that's on it. From above it seems beautiful, but near—."
"Yet, it is on the earth that we must live—and that Angela must
live," Julia interpolated gently.
"But what is the use of our learning to walk?" Peachy demanded.
"To teach Angela how to walk and all the other girl-children that
are coming to us."
"But I am afraid," Peachy said anxiously, that if Angela learned to
walk, she would forget how to fly."
"On the contrary," Julia declared, "she would fly better for
knowing how to walk, and walk better for knowing how to fly."
"I don't see it," interposed Clara emphatically. "I don't see what
we get out of walking or what Angela will get out of it. Suppose we
learned to walk? The men would stop helping us along. We'd lose the
appeal of helplessness."
"But what is there about what you call 'the appeal of helplessness'
that makes it worth keeping?" Julia asked, smiling affectionately into
Clara's eyes. "Why shouldn't we lose it?"
"Why, because," Clara exclaimed indignantly, "because—because—
why, because," she ended lamely. Then, with one of her unexpected
bursts of mental candor, "I'm sure I don't know why," she admitted,
"except that we have always appealed to them for that reason. Then
again," she took up her argument from another angle, "if we learn to
walk, they won't wait on us any more. They may even stop giving us
things. As it is now, they're really very generous to us."
The others smiled with varying degrees of furtiveness. Pete, as
they all knew, could always placate an incensed Clara by offering her
some loot of the homeward way: a bunch of flowers, a handful of nuts,
beautifully colored pebbles, shells with the iridescence still wet on
them. She soon tired of these toys, but she liked the excitement of
"Generous to us!" Chiquita burst out—and this was as unexpected
as Lulu's face-about. "Well, when you come to that, they're never
generous to us. They make us pay for all they give us. They seem
generous—but they aren't really—any more than we are."
"They are far from generous," said Peachy. "They are ungenerous.
They're tyrants. They're despots. See how they took advantage of our
innocence and ignorance of earth-conditions."
"I protest." A note that they had never heard from Julia made steel
of the thrilling melody of her voice. "You must know that is not
true!" she said in an accusing voice. "Be fair to them! Tell the truth
to yourselves! If they took advantage of our innocence and ignorance,
it was we who tempted them to it in the first place. As for our
innocence and ignorance—you speak as, if they were beautiful or
desirable. We were innocent and ignorant of earth-conditions because
we were too proud to learn about them, because we always assumed that
we lowered ourselves by knowing anything about them. Our mistake was
that we learned to fly before we learned to walk."
"But, Julia, what are we going to do about Angela?" Peachy asked
"I'm coming to that presently," Julia answered. "But before—I
want to ask you a question. Do you remember the big cave in the
northern reef— the one we used to hide in?"
"Oh, I remember," Lulu said, "perfectly."
"Did you ever tell Honey about it?" Julia turned to her directly.
"No. Why, we promised never to tell, didn't we? In case we ever
needed a place of refuge—."
"Have any of you ever told about it?" Julia turned to the others.
"Think carefully! This is important."
"I never have told," Peachy said wearily. "But about Angela—."
"Have you, Chiquita?" Julia interrupted with a strange insistence.
"I have never thought of it from that day to this," Chiquita
"Nor I," replied Clara. "I'm not sure that I could go to it now.
Could you, Julia?"
"Oh, yes," Julia answered eagerly, "I've—." She stopped abruptly.
"But now I want to talk to you, and I want you to listen carefully. I
am going to tell you why I think we should learn to walk. It is, in
brief, for Angela's sake and for the sake of every girl-child that is
born on this island. For a long time, you will think that I am talking
about other things. But you must be patient. I have seen this
situation coming ever since Angela's wings began to grow. I could not
hurry it—but I knew it must come. Many nights I have lain awake,
planning what I should say to you when the time came. The time has
come—and I am going to say it. It is a long, long speech that I
shall deliver; and I am going to speak very plainly. But you must not
get angry—for you know how much I love you and how much I love your
"I'm going back to our young girlhood, to the time when our people
were debating the Great Flight. We thought that we were different from
them all, we five, that we were more original and able and courageous.
And we were different. For when our people decided to go south to the
Snowlands, the courage of rebellion grew in us and we deserted in the
night. Do you remember the wonderful sense of freedom that came to us,
and how the further north we flew, the stronger it became? When we
found these islands, it seemed to us that they must have been created
especially for us. Here, we said, we would live always, free from
earth-ties—five incorruptible air-women.
"Then the men came. I won't go into all that. We've gone over it
hundreds and hundreds of times, just as we did this afternoon, playing
the most pathetic game we know—the do-you-remember game. But after
they came, we found that we were not free from earth-ties. For the
Great Doom overtook us and we fell in love. Then came the capture. And
we lost our wings."
She paused a moment.
"Do you remember that awful day at the Clubhouse, how Chiquita,
comforted us? I—I failed you then; I fainted; I felt myself to blame
for your betrayal. But Chiquita kept saying, 'Don't be afraid. They
won't hurt us. We are precious to them. They would rather die than
lose us. They need us more than we need them. They are bound to us by
a chain that they cannot break.' And for a long time that seemed true.
What we had to learn was that we needed them just as much as they
needed us, that we were bound to them by a chain that we could not
"I often think"—Julia's voice had become dreamy—" now when it
is so different, of those first few months after the capture. How kind
they were to us, how gentle, how considerate, how delicate, how
chivalrous! Do you remember that they treated us as if we were
children, how, for a long time, they pretended to believe in fairies?
Do you remember the long fairy-hunts in the moonlit jungle, the long
mermaid-hunts in the moonlit ocean? Do you remember the fairy-tales by
the fire? It seemed to me then that life was one long fairy-tale. And
how quickly we learned their language! Has it ever occurred to you
that no one of them has ever bothered to learn ours—none except
Frank, and he only because he was mentally curious? Then came the long
wooing. How we argued the marriage question—discussed and debated—
each knowing that the Great Doom was on her and could not be
"Then came the betrothal, the marriages, and suddenly all that
wonderful starlight and firelight life ended. For a while, the men
seemed to drift away from each other. For a while, we—the 'devoted
five,' as our people called us—seemed to drift away from each other.
It was as though they took back something they had freely given each
other to give to us. It was as though we took back something we had
freely given each other to give to them.
"Then, just as suddenly, they began to drift away from us and back
to each other. Some of the high, worshiping quality in their attitude
toward us disappeared. It was as though we had become less beautiful,
less interesting, less desirable—as if possession had killed some
precious, perishable quality."
"What that quality is I do not know. We are not dumb like stones or
plants, we women. We are not dull like birds or beasts. We do not fade
in a day like flowers. We do not stop like music. We do not go out
like light. What it was that went, or when or how, I do not know. But
it was something that thrilled and enchanted them. It went—and it
"It was as though we were toys—new toys—with a secret spring.
And if one found and pressed that spring, something unexpected and
something unbelievably wonderful would happen. They hunted for that
spring untiringly—hunted—and hunted—and hunted. At last they
found it. And after they found it, we no longer interested them. The
mystery and fascination had gone. After all, a toy is only a toy."
"Then came our great trouble—that terrible time of the illicit
hunting. Every man of them making love to some one of you. Every woman
of you making love to some one of them. That was a year of despair for
me. I could see no way out. It seemed to me that you were all drifting
to destruction and that I could not stay you. And then I began to
realize that the root of evil was only one thing idleness. Idle men!
Idle women! And as I wondered what we should do next, Nature took the
matter in her hands. She gave all you women work to do."
Julia paused. Her still gray eyes fixed on faraway things.
"Honey-Boy was born, then Peterkin, then Angela, then Honey-Bunch.
And suddenly everything was right again. But, somehow, the men seemed
soon to exhaust the mystery and fascination of fatherhood just as they
had exhausted the mystery and fascination of husbandhood. They became
restless and irritable. It seemed to me that another danger beset us—
vague, monstrous, looming—but I did not know what. You see they have
the souls of discoverers and explorers and conquerors, these
earth-men. They are creators. Their souls are filled with an eternal
unrest. Always they must attempt one thing more; ever they seek
something beyond. They would stop the sun and the moon in their
courses; they would harness the hurricane; they would chain the
everlasting stars. Sea, earth, sky are but their playgrounds; past,
present, future their servants; they lust to conquer the unexplored
areas of space and time. It came to me that what they needed was work
of another kind. One night, when I was lying awake thinking it over,
the idea of the New Camp burst on my mind. Do you remember how
delighted they were when I suggested it to them, how delighted you
were, how gay and jubilant we all were, how, for days and days, we
talked of nothing else? And we were as happy over the idea as they.
For a long time, we thought that we were going to help.
"We thought that we were going with them every day, not to work but
to sit in the nearby shade, to encourage them with our praise and
appreciation. And we did go for a month. But they had to carry us all
the way—or nearly carry us. Think of that—supporting a full-grown
woman all that weary road. I saw the feeling begin to grow in them
that we were burdens. I watched it develop. Understand me, a beautiful
burden, a beloved burden, but still a burden, a burden that it would
be good to slip off the back for the hours of the working day. I could
not blame them. For we were burdens. Then, under one pretext or
another, they began to suggest to us not to go daily to the New Camp
with them. The sun was too hot; we might fall; insects would sting us;
the sudden showers were too violent. Finally, that if we did not watch
the New Camp grow, it would be a glorious surprise to us when it was
"At first, you were all touched and delighted with their gallantry
- but I—I knew what it meant."
"I tried to stem the torrent of their strange, absorption, but I
could not. It grew and grew. And now you see what has happened. It has
been months since one of us has been to the New Camp and all of you,
except Peachy and myself, have entirely lost interest in it. It is not
surprising. It is natural. I, too, would lose interest if I did not
force myself to talk with Billy about it every night of my life. Lulu
said yesterday that it seemed strange to her that, after working
together all day, they should want to get together in the Clubhouse at
night. For a long time that seemed strange to me—until I discovered
that there is a chain binding them to each other even as there is a
chain binding them to us. And the Bond of Work is stronger than the
Bond of Sex because Work is a living, growing thing."
"In the meantime, we have our work too—the five children. But it
is a little constructive work—not a great one. For in this
beautiful, safe island, there is not much that we can do besides feed
them. And so, here we sit day after day, five women who could once
fly, big, strong, full-bodied, teeming with various efficiencies and
abilities—wasted. If we had kept our wings, we could have been of
incalculable assistance to them. Or if we could walk—."
"But I won't go further into our situation. I want to consider
"You are wondering what all this has to do with the matter of
Angela's flying. And now I am going to tell you. Don't you see if they
wait until she is a woman before they cut her wings, she will be in
the same case that we are in, unable either to fly or to walk. Rather
would I myself cut her wings to-night and force her to walk. But on
the other hand, should she grow to womanhood with wings, she would be
no true mate to a wingless man unless she could also walk. No, we must
see to it that she both flies and walks. In that case, she will be a
perfect mate to the wingless man. Her strength will not be as great as
his—but her facility will be greater. She will walk well enough to
keep by his side; and her flying will supplement his powers."
"And then—oh, don't you see it—don't you see why we must fight
- fight—fight for Angela, don't you see why her wings are a sacred
trust with us? Sometime, there will be born here—- Clara," she
turned her look on Clara's excited face, "it may be the baby that's
coming to you in the spring—sometime there will be born here a boy
with wings. Then more and more often they will come until there are as
many winged men as winged women. What will become of our girl-children
then if their mates fly as well as walk away from them. There is only
one way out. And there is only one duty before us—to learn to walk
that we may teach our daughters to walk—to preserve our daughter's
wings that they may teach their sons to fly."
"But, Julia," Peachy exclaimed, after an instant of dead silence.
There was a stir of wonder, flutelike in her voice, a ripple of
wonder, flamelike on her face. "Our feet are too fine, too soft. Ralph
says that mine are only toy feet, that no creature could really get
along on them."
She kicked the loose sandals off. Tiny, slim, delicately chiseled,
her feet were of a china whiteness, except where, at the tips, the
toes showed a rose-flush or where, over the instep, the veins
meandered in a blue network.
"Of course Peachy's feet are smaller than mine," Lulu said
wistfully. "But even my workaday little pads wouldn't carry me many
steps." From under her skirts appeared a pair of capable-looking,
brown feet, square, broad but little and satin-smooth.
"Mine are quite useless," Chiquita sighed. "Oh, why did I let
myself grow so big?" There was a note of despair in her velvet voice.
"It's almost as if there were no muscles in them." She pulled aside
her scarlet draperies. In spite of her increasing size, her dusky feet
had kept their aristocratic Andalusian lines.
"And I've always done just the things that would make it impossible
for me to walk," said Clara in a discouraged tone. "I've always taken
as much care of my feet as my hands—they're like glass." This was
true. In the pale-gold of her skin, the pink nails glittered
"And think of your own feet, Julia," Lulu exclaimed. "They're like
alabaster. Pete says that from the artist's point of view, they're
absolutely perfect. You don't imagine for an instant that you could
take a step on them, unsupported?"
"No?" said Julia. "No?" With a swift leap of her body, she stood on
the feet in question. And as the other stared, stupefied, she walked
with the splendid, swinging gait of an Amazon once, twice, thrice
around the Playground.
"Come, Angela!" Peachy called. "Come, baby!"
Angela started to spread her pinions. "Don't fly, baby," Peachy
Obediently, Angela dropped her wings, sank. Her feet, shell-like,
pinky-soft, padded the ground. She tried to balance, but she swayed
"No matter, darling!" Peachy called cheerily, "Try again!"
Angela heroically pulled herself up. She made a few uncertain
steps, but she stumbled with every move.
Honey-Boy and Peterkin came running up to her side; Junior,
grinning happily, waddled behind a long way in the rear. "Angela's
trying to walk!" the boys cried. "Angela's trying to walk!" They
capered with amusement. "Oh, isn't she funny? Look at the girl trying
The tears spurted from Angela's eyes. Her lips quivered. Her wings
shot up straight.
"Don't mind what the boys say, Angela!" Peachy called. "Put your
wings down! Keep right on walking!"
Again Angela's pinions dropped. Again she took a few steps. This
time she fell to her knees. But she pulled herself up, sped onward,
fell again, and again. She had reached the stones that bounded the
sand. When she arose this last time, her foot was, bleeding.
"Keep on walking, baby!" Peachy commanded inflexibly. But there was
a rain of tears on her check.
Angela staggered forward a rod or two; and now both feet left a
trail of blood. Then suddenly again she struggled for balance, fell
"Keep on walking, mother's heart's treasure," Peachy commanded. She
dropped to her knees and held out her arms; her face worked
Angela pulled herself up with a determined settling of her little
rose-petal mouth. Swaying, stumbling, staggering, she ran on in one
final spurt until she collapsed in her mother's arms.
"And as soon as we finish the New Camp," Honey said eagerly, "we
must make another on the rocks at the north. That will be our summer
"And as soon as we've finished that, let's build a house-boat for
the lake," Billy suggested.
"Then let's put up some hunting-boxes at the south," Ralph took it
"There's a good year's work on the New Camp," Frank reminded them.
"But after the New Camp and the Hunting-Boxes and the House-Boat—
what?" Ralph asked a little drearily.
"Plenty to do," Billy promised cheerily. "I've been working on a
plan to lay out the entire island in camps and parks. Pete, I want to
bring them over to you some night."
"Come to-night," Pete said eagerly.
"Why not bring them to the Clubhouse," Honey asked. "I'd like to
see them, too. While I'm working with my hands on one job, I like to
be working with my head on the next."
"Sure," agreed Ralph, "I'm for that. I'll join you to-night. Can
you come, Frank?"
"I had meant to write to-night," Frank said. "But of course I can
put that off."
"Has it ever occurred to you fellows," Billy asked, "that just as
soon as the boys are big enough for us to leave the women in their
care, we can build a boat and visit the other four islands?"
"Gee!" Honey said. "Now you're shouting. I never thought of that.
Lord, how I would like to get away from this place for a while. Being
shut in in any way always gets on my nerves."
Ralph drew a long breath. "I never thought of it," he admitted.
"But it gives me a new lease of life."
"I shall feel like Columbus," Pete acknowledged, "and then some.
Why it's like visiting the moon—or Mars. And God knows we'll need an
other island or two in our business—provided we stay here for two or
three generations more. We'll be a densely populated world-center
before we know it."
"I was thinking," Billy suddenly relapsed to the previous subject.
"How about the women tonight? They always hate to have us leave them
when we've been away all day,—and we've been here two days,
"Oh, that's all right," Honey answered. "I'm sure Lulu'll be all
right. There's been the greatest change in her in the last few
"Peachy won't mind," said Ralph. "She told me the other night to go
to the Clubhouse as often as I wanted and stay as late."
"Clara says practically the same." Pete wrinkled his forehead in
perplexity. "It took my breath away. How do you account for it?"
"Oh, that's all right," Honey answered. stopping to dash the sweat
from his forehead, "I should say it was just a matter of their getting
over their foolishness. I suppose all young married women have it—
that instinct to monopolize their husbands. And when you think it
over, we do sort of give them the impression while we're courting them
that they are the whole cheese. But that isn't all. They've come to
their senses on some other matters. I think, for instance, they're
beginning to get our point of view on this flying proposition. Lulu
hasn't hinted that she'd like to fly for three months. She's never
been so contented since, we captured them. To do her justice, though,
she always saw, when I pointed it out to her, that flying was foolish,
besides being dangerous."
"Well," Ralph said, "what between holding them down from the clouds
and keeping them away from the, New Camp, managing them has been some
job. But I guess you're right, Honey. I think they're reconciled now
to their lot. If I do say it as shouldn't, Peachy seems like a regular
woman nowadays. She's braced up in fine style in the last two months.
Her color is much better; her spirits are high. When I get home at
night, she doesn't want to go out at all. If I say that I'm going to
the Clubhouse, she never raises a yip. In fact, she seems too tired to
care. She's always ready now to turn in when I do. For months and
months, you know, she sat up reading until all hours of the night and
morning. But now she falls asleep like a child."
"Then she's gotten over that insomnia?" Pete asked this casually
and he did not look at Ralph.
"Entirely," Ralph replied briefly, and in his turn he did not look
at Pete. "She's a perfectly healthy woman now. She gets her three
squares every day and her twelve hours every night—regular. I never
saw such an improvement in a woman."
"Well, when it comes to sleeping," Pete said, "I don't believe
she's got anything on Clara. I often find her dead to the world when I
get home at night. I jolly her about that—for she has always thought
going to bed early indicated lack of temperament. And as for teasing
to be allowed to fly, or to be taken out swimming, or to call on any
of you, or to let her tag me here—why, that's all stopped short. She
keeps dozing off all the evening. Sometimes in the midst of a
sentence, she'll begin to nod. Never saw her looking so well, though."
"Chiquita, on the contrary, isn't sleeping as much as she did,"
Frank said. "She's more active, though—physically, I mean. She's
rejoicing at present over the fact that she's lost twenty-five, pounds
in the last three months. She said last night that she hadn't been so
slim since she was a girl."
"Twenty-five pounds!" exclaimed Honey. "That's a good deal to lose.
How the hell—how do you explain it!"
"Increased household activity," Frank replied vaguely. "And then
mentally, I think she's more vigorous. She's been reading a great deal
by herself. Formerly I found that reading annoyed her—even when I
read aloud, explaining carefully as I went along."
"I haven't noticed an increased activity on Julia's part," Billy
said thoughtfully. "But she's always been extraordinarily active,
considering everything. The way she gets about is marvelous. But of
course she's planned the placing of her furniture with that in view.
She's as quick as a cat. I have noticed, however, that she seems much
happier. They certainly are a changed lot of women."
"The twelve o'clock whistle has just blown," Honey announced.
The five men dropped their tools. They gathered their lunches
together and fell to a voracious feeding. At last, pipes appeared.
They stretched themselves to the smoker's ease. For a while, the
silence was unbroken. Then, here and there, somebody dropped an
irrelevant remark. Nobody answered it.
They lay in one corner of the big space which had been cleared from
the jungle chaos. On one side rippled the blue lake carving into many
tiny bays and inlets and padded with great green oases of matted
lily-leaves. On the other side rose the highest hill on the island.
The cleared land stretched to the very summit of this hill. Over it
lay another chaos, the chaos of confusion; half-completed buildings of
log and stone, rectangles and squares of dug-up land where buildings
would some day stand, half-finished roadways, ditches of muddy water,
hills of round beach-stones, piles of logs, some stripped of the bark,
others still trailing a green huddle of leaf and branch, tools
everywhere. The jungle rolled like, a tidal wave to the very boundary;
in places its green spume had fallen over the border. As the men
smoked, their eyes went back to the New Camp again and again. It was
obvious that constantly they made mental measurements, that ever in
their mind's eye they saw the completed thing.
"Well," said Ralph, reverting without warning to the subject under
discussion. His manner tacitly assumed that the others had also been
considering it mentally. "I confess I don't understand women really.
I've always thought that I did. But I see now that I never have."
Addington's rare outbursts of frankness in regard to the other sex
were the more startling because they contrasted so sharply with his
normal attitude of lordly understanding and contempt. "I've been a
good manager and I'm not saying that I haven't had my successes with
them. But as I look back upon them now, I realize I followed my
intuitions, not my reason. I've done what I've done without knowing
why. I have to feel my way still. I can't account for the change
that's come over them. For four years now they've been at us to let
their wings grow again. And for four years we've been saying no in
every possible tone of voice and with every possible inflection. I've
had no idea that Peachy would ever get over it. My God, you fellows
have no idea what I've been through with her in regard to this
question of flying. Why, one night three months ago, she had an awful
attack of hysteria because I told her I'd have to cut Angela's wings
as soon as she was grown-up."
"Well, what did she expect?" Honey asked.
"That I'd let her keep them—that I'd let her fly the way Peachy
did! Or—what do you suppose she suggested?—that I cut them off
"Well, what was her idea in that?" Billy's tone was the acme of
"That as long as I wouldn't let her keep them after she had
attained her growth, she might as well not have them at all."
Billy laughed. "That's a woman's reasoning all right, all right.
Why, it would destroy half Angela's charm in my eyes. That little
fluttering flight of hers, half on the ground, half in the air, is so
lovely, so engaging, so endearing—- . But of course letting her fly
high would be —."
"Absurd," Ralph interrupted.
"Dangerous," Honey interpolated.
"Unwomanly," Pete added.
"Immodest," Billy concluded.
"Well, thank God it's all over," Ralph went on. "But, as I say, I
give up guessing what's changed her, unless it's the principle that
constant dropping wears away the stone. Oscar Wilde had the answer.
They're sphinxes without secrets. They do anything that occurs to them
and for no particular reason. I get along with, them only by laying
down the law and holding them to it. And I reckon they've got that
idea firmly fixed in their minds now—that they're to stay where we
Honey wriggled as if in discomfort. "Seems to me, Ralph, you take a
pretty cold-blooded view of the situation. I guess I don't go very far
with you. Not that I pretend to understand women. I don't. My system
with them is to give them anything they ask, within reason, of course,
to keep them busy and happy, buy them presents, soft-soap them, jolly
them along. I suppose that personally, I wouldn't have minded their
flying a little every afternoon, as long as they took the proper care.
I mean by that, not to fly too far out to sea or too high in the air
and never when we were at home, so long, in short, as they followed
the rules that we laid down for them. You fellows seem to have the
idea if we let them do that we'd lose them. But if there's one general
proposition fixed more firmly in my nut than any other, it is that you
can't lose them. But of course I intend always to stand by whatever
"I don't know," Billy burst in hotly, "which of you two makes me
sickest and which is the most insulting in his attitude towards women,
you, Ralph, who treat them as if they were household pets, or you,
Honey, who treat them as if they were dolls. In my opinion there is
only one law to govern a man's relation with a woman—the law of
chivalry. To love her, and cherish her, to do all the hard work of the
world for her, to stand between her and everything that is unbeautiful
and unpleasant, to think for her, to put her on a pedestal and worship
her; to my mind that sums up the whole duty of man to woman."
"They're better than goddesses on pedestals," Pete said. "They're
creatures neither of flesh nor of marble—they're ideals. They're
made of stars, sunlight, moonshine. I believe in treating them like
beings of a higher world."
"I disagree with all of you," Frank said ponderously, "I don't
believe in treating them as if they were pets or dolls, or goddesses
on pedestals or ideals. I believe in treating them like human beings,
the other half of the race. I don't see that they are any better or
any worse than we—they're about the same. Soon after we captured
them, you remember, we entered into an agreement that no one of us
would ever let his wife's wings grow without the consent of all the
others. One minute after I had given my word, I was sorry for it. But
you kept your word to me in the agreement that I forced on you before
the capture; and, so, I shall always keep mine to you. But I regret it
more and more as time goes on. You see I'm so constituted that I can't
see anything but abstract justice. And according to abstract justice
we have no right to hold these women bound to the earth. If the air is
their natural habitat, it is criminal for us to keep them out of it.
They're our equals in every sense—I mean in that they supplement us,
as we supplement them. They've got what we haven't got and we've got
what they haven't got. They can't walk, but they can fly. We can't
fly, but we can walk. It is as though they compelled us, creatures of
the earth, to live in the air all the time. Oh, it's wrong. You'll see
it some day."
"I never listened to such sophistry in my life," said Ralph in
disgust. You'll be telling us next," he added sarcastically, that we
hadn't any right to capture them."
"We hadn't," Frank replied promptly. "On reflection, I consider
that the second greatest crime of my existence. But that's done and
can't be wiped out. They own this island just as much as we do. They'd
been coming to it for months before we saw it. They ought to have
every kind of right and freedom and privilege on it that we, have."
"I'd like to hear," Addington said in the high, thin tone of his
peevish disgust, "the evidence that justifies you in saying that. What
have they ever done on this island to put them on an equality with us?
Aren't they our inferiors from every point of view, especially
"Certainly they are," agreed Honey, not peevishly but as one who
indorses, unnecessarily, a self-evident fact. "They've lived here on
Angel Island as long as we have. But they haven't made good yet, and
we have. Why, just imagine them working on the New Camp—playing
"But we prevented all that," Frank protested. "We cut their wings.
Handicapped as they were by their small feet, they could do nothing."
"But," Honey ejaculated, "if they'd been our physical equals, they
would never have let us cut their wings."
"But we caught them with a trick," Frank said, "we put them in a
position in which they could not use their physical strength."
"Well, if they'd been our mental equals, they'd never let
themselves get caught like that."
"Well—but—but—but—" Frank sputtered. "Now you're arguing
crazily. You're going round in a circle."
"Oh, well," Honey exclaimed impatiently, let's not argue any more.
You always go round in a circle. I hate argument. It never changes,
anybody. You never hear what the other fellow says. You always come
out of it with your convictions strengthened."
Frank made a gesture of despair. He drew a little book from his
pocket and began to read.
"There's one thing about them that certainly is to laugh," Honey
said after a silence, a glint of amusement in his big eyes, "and that
is the care they take of those useless feet of theirs. Lulu's even
taken to doing hers up every night in oil or cream. It's their
particular vanity. Now, take that, for instance. Men never have those
petty vanities. I mean real men—regular fellows."
"How about the western cowboy and his fancy boots?" Frank shot back
over his book.
"Oh, that's different," Ralph said. "Honey's right. That business
of taking care of their feet symbolizes the whole sex to me. They do
the things they do just because the others do them—like sheep
jumping over a wall. Their fad at present is pedicure. Peachy's at it
just like the rest of them. Every night when I come home, I find her
sitting down with both feet done up in one of those beautiful scarfs
she's collected, resting on a cushion. It's rather amusing, though."
Ralph struggled to suppress his smile of appreciation.
"Clara's the same." Pete smiled too. "She's cut herself out some
high sandals from a pair of my old boots. And she wears them day and
night. She says she's been careless lately about getting her feet
sunburned. And she's not going to let me see them until they're
perfectly white and transparent again. She says that small, beautiful,
and useless feet were one of the points of beauty with her people."
"Julia's got the bug, too." Billy's eyes lighted with a gleam of
tenderness. "Among the things she found in the trunk was a box of
white silk stockings and some moccasins. She's taken to wearing them
lately. It always puts a crimp in me to get a glimpse of them—as if
she'd suddenly become a normal, civilized woman."
"Now that I think of it," Frank again came out of his book.
"Chiquita asked me a little while ago for a pair of shoes. She's
wearing them all the time now to protect her feet—from the sun she
"It is the most curious thing," Billy said, "that they have never
wanted to walk. Not that I want them to now," he added hastily.
"That's their greatest charm in my eyes—their helplessness. It has a
curious appeal. But it is singular that they never even tried it, if
only out of curiosity."
"They have great contempt for walking," Honey observed. "And it has
never occurred to them, apparently, that they could enjoy themselves
so much more if they could only get about freely. Not that I want them
to— any more than you. That utter helplessness is, as you say,
"Oh, well," Ralph said contemptuously, "what can you expect of
them? I tell you it's lack of gray matter. They don't cerebrate. They
don't co-ordinate. They don't correlate. They have no initiative, no
creative faculty, no mental curiosity or reflexes or reactions.
They're nothing but an unrelated bunch of instincts, intuitions, and
impulses—human nonsense machines! Why if the positions were reversed
and we'd lost our wings, we'd have been trying to walk the first day.
We'd have been walking better than they by the end of a month."
"I like it just as it is," Pete said contentedly. "They can't fly
and they don't want to walk. We always know where to find them."
"Thank God we don't have to consider that matter," Billy concluded.
Apparently the walking impulse isn't in them. They might some time, by
hook or crook, wheedle us into letting them fly a little. But one
thing is certain, they'll never take a step on those useless feet."
"Delicate, adorable, useless little feet of theirs," Pete said
softly as if he were reciting from an ode.
"There's something moving along the trail, boys," Frank said
quietly. "I keep getting glimpses of it through the bushes—white—
blue—red and yellow."
The others stopped, petrified. They scowled, bending an intent gaze
through the brilliant noon sunshine.
"Sure I get it!" Billy answered in a low tone. "There's something
"I don't." Honey shaded his eyes.
"Nor I." Pete squinted.
"Well, I don't see anything," Ralph said impatiently. "But
providing you fellows aren't nuts, what the devil can it be?"
"It's—" Billy began. Then, "My God!" he ended.
Something white glimmered at the end of the trail. It grew larger,
bulked definitely, filled the opening.
"Julia!" Billy gasped.
"And she's—she's—." Honey could not seem to go on.
"Walking," Billy concluded for him.
"And Peachy!" Ralph exclaimed.
"And why—and—and—- ." It was Pete who stopped for breath this
"And she's walking!" Ralph concluded for himself.
"And Clara! And Lulu! And Chiquita!" they greeted each one of the
women as fast as they appeared. And in between them came again and
again their astonished "And walking!"
The five women were walking, and walking with no appearance of
effort, swiftly, lightly, joyously. Julia, at the head, moved with the
frank, free, swinging gait of an Amazon. Peachy seemed to flit along
the ground; there was in her progress something of the dipping,
curving grace of her flight. Clara glided; her effect of motionless
movement was almost obsidian. Chiquita kept the slow, languid gait,
both swaying and pulsating, of a Spanish woman. Lulu trotted with the
brisk, pleasing activity of a Morgan pony.
Their skirts had been shortened; they rippled away from slim
ankles. The swathing, wing-like draperies had disappeared; their slit
sleeves fluttered away from bare shoulders. The women did not pause.
They came on steadily, their eyes fixed on the group of men.
The faces in that group had changed in expression. Ralph's became
black and lowering. Honey looked surprised but interested; his color
did not vary; Billy turned a deep brick-red. Pete went white. Frank
Merrill alone studied the phenomenon with the cool, critical eye of
The women paused at a little distance where the path dipped to coil
around a little knoll. They abandoned the path to climb this knoll;
they climbed it with surprising ease; they almost flew up the sides.
They stood there silently grouped about Julia. For an instant the two
parties gazed at each other.
Then, "What does this mean, Peachy?" Ralph asked sternly.
Julia answered for Peachy.
"It means—rebellion," she said. " It means that we have decided
among ourselves that we will not permit you to cut Angela's wings. It
means that rather than have you do that, we will leave you, taking our
children with us. If you will promise us that you will not cut
Angela's wings nor the wings of any child born to us, we in our turn
will promise to return to our homes and take our lives up with you
just where we left off."
A confused murmur arose from the men. Ralph leaped to his feet. He
made a movement in the direction of the women, involuntary but
The women shrank closer to Julia. They turned white, but they
waited. Julia did not stir.
"Go home, you—" Ralph stopped abruptly and choked something back.
"Go at once!" Billy added sternly.
"I'm ashamed of you, Clara," Pete said.
"Better go back, girls," Honey advised. He tried to make his tone
authoritative. But in spite of himself, there lingered a little
pleading in it. To make up, he unmasked the full battery of his
coaxing smile, his quizzical frown, his snapping dimples. "We can't
let Angela fly after she's grown up. It isn't natural. It isn't what a
woman should be doing."
Frank said nothing.
Julia looked at them steadily an instant.
"Come!" she said briefly to her little band. The women ran down the
knoll and disappeared up the trail.
"Well, I'll be damned," Ralph remarked.
"Well, when you come to that, I'll be damned," Honey coincided.
"Who was it said that God did not intend them to walk?" Frank asked
"So that's what all this bandaging of feet meant," Billy went on,
ignoring this thrust. "They were learning to walk all the time."
"You're on," Ralph said in a disgusted tone. "Foxy little devils!"
"Gee, it must have hurt!" Honey exclaimed. "They must have been
torn to ribbons at first. Some pluck, believe me!"
"I bet you dollars to doughnuts, Julia's at the bottom of it,"
"No question about that," Frank commented. "Julia thinks."
"Considerable bean, too," said Honey. "Well, we've got to put a
stop to it to-night."
"Sure!" Ralph agreed. "Read the riot act the instant we get home.
By the Lord Harry, if it's necessary I'll tie my wife up!"
"I never could do that," said Pete.
"Nor I," said Frank.
"Nor I," said Honey. "But I don't think we'll have to resort to
violent measures. We've only got to appeal to their love; I can twist
Lulu right round my finger that way."
"I guess you're right," Ralph smiled. "That always fetches them."
"I don't anticipate any real trouble from this," Billy went on as
though arguing with himself. "We've got to take it at the start,
though. We can't have Angela flying after she's grown."
"Sure," said Honey, "it'll blow over in a few days. But now that
they can walk, let's offer to teach them how to dance and play tennis
and bocci and golf. And I'll tell you what—we'll lay out some
gardens for them—make them think they're beautifying the place. We
might even teach them how to put up shelves and a few little
carpentering tricks like that. That'll hold them for a while. Oh,
you'll all come round to my tactics sooner or later! Pay them
compliments! Give them presents! Jolly them along! And say, it will be
fun to have some mixed doubles. Gee, though, they'll be something
fierce now they've learned how to walk. They'll be here half the time.
They'll have so many ideas how the New Camp ought to be built and a
woman is such an obstinate cuss. Asking questions and arguing and
interfering—they delay things so. We've got to find out something
harmless that'll keep them busy."
"Oh, we never can have them here—never in the world," Ralph
agreed. "But we'll fix them to-night. How about it, old top?" he
inquired jovially of Frank.
Frank did not answer.
In point of fact they did not "fix" the women that night, owing to
the simple reason that they found the camp deserted—not a sign of
woman or child in sight or hearing.
"Well, there's one thing about it," Ralph said on their way back to
the New Camp the next morning, "you can always beat any woman's game
by just ignoring it. They can stand anything but not being noticed.
Now our play is to do nothing and say nothing. They're on this island
somewhere. They can't walk off it, and they can't swim off it, and
they can't fly off it. They may stay away for day or more or possibly
two. By the end of week they'll certainly be starved out. And they'll
be longing for our society. We want to keep right at work as if
nothing had happened. Let them go and come as they please. But we take
no notice—see! We've done that once before and we can do it again.
When they come home, they'll be a pretty tired-out, hungry,
discouraged gang of girls. I bet we never hear another word out of
them on this subject."
The men worked as usual the whole morning; but they talked less.
They were visibly preoccupied. At every pause, they glanced furtively
up the trail. When noon came, it was evident that they dropped their
tools with relief. They sat with their eyes glued to the path.
"Here they come!" Billy exclaimed at last.
The men did not speak; nor until they came to the little knoll that
debouched from the trail did the women. Again Julia acted as
spokesman. "We have given you a night to think this matter over," she
said briefly. "What is your decision? Shall Angela's wings go uncut?"
"No, by God! " burst out Ralph. "No daughter of mine is going to
fly. If you—."
But with a silencing gesture, Billy interposed. "Aren't you women
happy?" he asked.
"Oh, no," Julia answered. "Of course we're not. I mean we have one
kind of happiness—the happiness that come's from being loved and
having a home and children. But there is another kind of happiness of
which when you cut our wings we were no longer capable—the happiness
that comes from a sense of absolute freedom. We can bear that for
ourselves, but not for our daughters. Angela and all the girl-children
who follow her must have the freedom that we have lost. Will you give
it to them?"
"No!" Ralph yelled. And "Go home!" Honey said brutally.
The women turned.
A dead tree grew by the knoll, one slender limb stretching across
its top to the lake. Peachy ran nimbly along this limb until she came
as near to the tip as her weight would permit. She stood there an
instant balancing herself; then she walked swiftly back and forth.
Finally she jumped to the ground, landing squarely on her feet. She
ran like a deer to join the file of women.
Involuntarily the men applauded.
"Remember the time when they first came to the island," Ralph said,
"how she was proud like a lion because she managed to hold herself for
an instant on a tree-branch? Her wings were helping her then. Now it's
a real balancing act. Some stunt that! By Jove, she must have been
practising tightrope walking." In spite of his scowl, a certain
tenderness, half of past admiration, half of present pride, gleamed in
"You betchu they have. They've been practising running and jumping
and leaping and vaulting and God only knows what else. Well, we've
only got to keep this up two or three days longer and they'll come
back." Honey spoke in a tone which palpably he tried to make jaunty.
In spite of himself, there was a wavering note of uncertainty in it.
"Oh, we'll get them yet!" Ralph said. "How about it, old fellow?"
Ralph had never lost his old habit of turning to Frank in
But Frank again kept silence.
"Betchu we find them at home to-night," Honey said as they started
down the trail an hour ahead of time. "Who'll take me. Come!"
No one took him, luckily for Honey. There was no sign of life that
night, nor the next, nor the next. And in the meantime, the women did
not manifest themselves once during the daytime at the New Camp.
"God, we've got to do something about this," Ralph said at the end
of five days. "This is getting serious. I want to see Angela. I hadn't
any idea I could miss her so much. It seems as if they'd been gone for
a month. They must have been preparing for this siege for weeks. Where
the thunder are they hiding—in the jungle somewhere, of course?"
"Oh, of course," Honey assented. "I miss the boys, too," he
mourned, "I used to have a frolic with them every morning before I
left and every night when I got home."
"And it's all so uncomfortable living alone," Ralph grumbled. He
was unshaven. The others showed in various aspects of untidiness the
lack of female standards.
"I'm so sick of my own cooking," Honey complained.
"Not so sick as we are," said Pete.
"Anybody can have my job that wants it," Honey volunteered with a
touch of surliness unusual with him.
At noon the five women appeared again at the end of the trail.
In contrast to the tired faces and dishevelled figures of the men,
they presented an exquisite feminine freshness, hair beautifully
coiled, garments spotless and unwrinkled. But although their eyes were
like stars and their cheeks like flowers, their faces were serious; a
dew, as of tears lately shed, lay over them.
"Shall Angela fly?"' Julia asked without parley.
The women turned.
"Wait a moment," Frank called in a sudden tone of authority. "I'm
with you women in this. If you'll let me join your forces, I'll fight
on your side."
He had half-covered the distance between them before Julia stopped
him with a "Wait a moment!" as decisive as his own.
"In the first place," she said, "we don't want your help. If we
don't get this by our own efforts, we'll never value it. In the second
place, we'll never be sure of it. We don't trust you—quite. You
tricked us once. That was your fault. If you trick us again, that's
our fault. Thank you—but no, Frank."
The women disappeared down the trail while still the men stood
"Well, can you beat it?" was the only comment for a moment—and
that came from Pete. In another instant, they had turned on Merrill,
were upbraiding him hotly for what they called his treason.
"You can't bully me," was his unvarying answer. "Remember, any time
they call on me, I'll fight for them."
"Well, you can do what you want with your own wife, of course,"
Ralph said, falling into one of his black rages. "But I'm damned if
you'll encourage mine."
"Boys," he added later, after a day of steadily increasing rage,
"I'm tired of this funny business. Let's knock off work to-morrow and
hunt them. What gets me is their simplicity. They don't seem to have
calculated on our superior strength. It won't take us more than a few
hours to run them to earth. By God, I wish we had a pair of
"All right," said Billy. "I'm with you, Ralph. I'm tired of this."
"Let's go, to bed early to-night," said Pete, and start at
"Well," said Honey philosophically, "I've hunted deer, bear,
panther, buffalo, Rocky Mountain sheep, jaguar, lion, tiger, and
rhinoceros—but this is the first time I ever hunted women."
They started at sunrise—all except Frank, who refused to have
anything to do with the expedition—and they hunted all day. At
sunset they camped where they fell exhausted. They went back to the
search the next day and the next and the next and the next.
And nowhere did they find traces of their prey.
"Where are they? Ralph said again and again in a baffled tone.
"They couldn't have flown away, could they?"
And, as often as he asked this question, his companions answered it
in the varying tones of their fatigue and their despair. "Of course
they couldn't—their wings were too short."
"Still," Frank said once. "It's now long past the half-yearly
shearing period." He added in another instant, "I don't think, though,
that their wings could more than lift them."
"Well, it's evident, wherever they are, they won't budge until we
go back to work," Billy said at the end of a week. "This is useless
The next day they returned to the New Camp.
"Here they come," Billy called joyously that noon. "Thank God!" he
added under his breath.
Again the five women appeared at the beginning of the trail. Their
faces were white now, hollow and lined; but as ever, they bore a look
of extraordinary pristineness. And this time they brought the
children. Angela lay in her mother's arms like a wilted flower. Her
wings sagged forlornly and her feet were bandaged. But stars of a
brilliant blue flared and died and flared again in her eyes; roses of
a living flame bloomed and faded and bloomed again in her cheek. Her
look went straight to her father's face, clung there in luminous
entreaty. Peterkin, more than ever like a stray from some unreal, pixy
world, surveyed the scene with his big, wondering, gray-green eyes.
Honey-Boy, having apparently just waked, stared, owl-like, his brows
pursed in comic reproduction of his father's expression. Junior
grinned his widest grin and padded the air unceasingly with his pudgy
hands. Honey-Bunch slept placidly in Julia's arms.
Julia advanced a little from her group and dropped a single
monosyllable. "Well?" she said in an inflexible, questioning voice.
Nobody answered her. Instead Addington called in a beseeching
voice: "Angela! Angela! Come to me! Come to dad, baby!"
Angela's dead little wings suddenly flared with life; they
fluttered in a very panic. She stretched out her arms to her father.
She turned her limpid gaze in an agony of infantile entreaty up to her
mother's face. But Peachy shook her head. The baby flutter died down.
Angela closed her eyes, dropped her head on her mother's shoulder; the
tears started from under her eyelids.
"Shall Angela fly?" Julia asked. "Remember this is your last
"No," Ralph said. And the word was the growl of a balked beast.
"Then," Julia said sternly, "we will leave Angel Island forever."
"You will," Ralph sneered. "You will, will you? All right. Let's
see you do it!" Suddenly he started swiftly down toward the trail.
Come, boys!" he commanded. Honey followed—and Billy and Pete.
But, suddenly, Julia spoke. She spoke in the loud, clear tones of
her flying days and she used the language of her girlhood. It was a
word of command. And as it fell from her lips, the five women leaped
from the top of the knoll. But they did not fall into the lake. They
did not touch its surface. They flew. Flew—and yet it was not
flight. It was half-flight. It was scarcely flight at all. Compared
with the magnificent, calm, effortless sweep of their girlhood days,
it was almost a grotesque performance. Their wing-stumps beat back and
forth violently, beat in a very agony of effort. Indeed these stunted
fans could never have held them up. They supplemented their efforts by
a curious rotary movement of the legs and feet. They could not rise
very far above the surface of the water, especially as each woman was
weighted by a child; but they sustained a steady, level flight to the
other side of the lake.
The men stared for an instant, petrified. Then panic broke. "Come
back, Lulu!" Honey yelled. "Come back!" "Julia!" Billy called
hoarsely, "Julia! Julia! Julia!" He went on calling her name as if his
senses had left him. Pete's lips moved. Words came, but no voice; he
stood like a statue, whispering. Merrill remained silent; obviously he
could not even whisper; his was the silence of paralysis. Addington,
on the other hand, was all voice. "Oh, my God!" he cried. "Don't leave
me, Peachy! Don't leave me! Peachy! Angela! Peachy! Angela!" His voice
ascended on the scale of hysteric entreaty until he screeched. "Don't
leave me! Don't leave me!" He fell to his knees and held out his arms;
the tears poured down his face.
The women heard, turned, flew back. Holding themselves above the
men's heads, they fluttered and floated. Their faces were working and
the tears flowed freely, but they kept their eyes steadily fixed on
Julia, waiting for command.
Julia was ghastly. "Shall Angela fly?" she asked. And it was as
though her voice came from an enormous distance, so thin and
expressionless and far-away had it become.
"Anything!" Addington said. "Anything! Oh, my God, don't leave us!"
Julia said something. Again this word was in their own language and
again it was a word of command. But emotion had come into her voice—
joy; it thrilled through the air like a magic fluid. The women sank
slowly to earth. In another instant the two forces were in each
"Billy," Julia said, as hand in hand they struck into one of the
paths that led to the jungle, "will you marry me?"
Billy did not answer. He only looked at her.
"When?" he said finally. "To-morrow?"
"To-day," Julia said.
Sunset on Angel Island.
The Honeymoon House thrilled with excitement. At intervals figures
crowded to the narrow door; at intervals faces crowded in the narrow
window. Sometimes it was Lulu, swollen and purple and broken with
weeping. Sometimes it was Chiquita, pale and blurred and sagging with
tears. Often it was Peachy, whose look, white and sodden, steadily
searched the distance. Below on the sand, Clara, shriveled, pinched,
bent over, her hands writhing in and out of each other's clasp, paced
back and forth, her eye moving always on the path. Suddenly she
stopped and listened. There came first a faint disturbance of the air,
then confusion, then the pounding of feet. Angela, white-faced,
frightened, appeared, flying above the trail. "I found him," she
called. Behind came Billy, running. He flashed past Clara.
"How is she?" he panted.
"Alive," Clara said briefly.
He flew up the steps. Clara followed. Angela dropped to the sand
and Jay there, her little head in the crook of her elbow, sobbing.
Inside a murmur of relief greeted Billy. "He's come, Julia," Peachy
The women withdrew from the inner room as Billy passed over the
Julia lay on the couch stately and still. One long white hand
rested on her breast. The other stretched at her side; its fingers
touched a little bundle there. Her wings—the glorious pinions of her
girlhood— towered above the pillow, silver-shining, quiescent. Her
honey-colored hair piled in a huge crown above her brow. Her eyes were
closed. Her face was like marble; but for an occasional faint movement
of the hand at her side, she might have been the sculpture on a tomb.
Her lids flickered as Billy approached, opened on eyes as dull as
stones. But as they looked up into his, they filled with light.
"My husband—" she said. Her eyes closed.
But presently they opened and with a greater dazzle of light. "Our
son—" The hand at her side moved feebly on the little bundle there.
That faint movement seemed a great effort. Her eyes closed again.
But for a third time she opened them, and now they shone with their
greatest glory. "My husband—our son—has—wings."
And then Julia's eyes closed for the last time.