Inez Haynes Gillmore
Part 2 out of 4
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
"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 they."
"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 ways."
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 voluptuous.
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,
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
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 flowers.
"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 beautiful.
"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
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 expression.
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 their work.
"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 opalescent mist.
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 expeditions.
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
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
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
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 thrill.
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 wonder.
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 that dusk.
"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 apparition.
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 acquaintance."
"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
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 unvarying contentiousness.
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 women."
"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
"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 couples
"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 asked.
"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 steerage."
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 a group.
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
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 above
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
"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
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 the water.
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 hereafter."
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
"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 of sight.
"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
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 it."
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, helpless.
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 God!"
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
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 sleep.
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 agreed.
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
"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, Honey?"
"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 agreement."
"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 smiled.
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,
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 asked
"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 question."
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
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 trail.
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
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
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 female
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
"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
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 earth?"
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
"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
"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
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 it.
"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
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, strong-looking
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
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
"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
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,
"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
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 commented.
"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 we've
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 gonfalon.
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, star-sown.
"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
"Well, who would walk if he could fly?" demanded Pete pugnaciously.
"Well said, son," agreed Ralph, "but what are we going to do about it?"
"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 answered
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
"Only one more day's work," Frank said at the end of a fortnight, "and
then - ."
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 sky.
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
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
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 the camp.
"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
"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 must
"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 nerve."
"Good idea," Billy said. They plunged into the water. Fifteen minutes
later, they emerged on the other side, cool, composed, ready for
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 calm themselves.
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 Honey.
"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 rush
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 contents.
"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
"That's right," said Ralph. "If we don't do it now, we'll never do it.'
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 desperate
"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
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 bird-calls.
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
Back to Full Books