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This etext was produced by David Schwan .
By Inez Haynes Gillmore
Author of "Phoebe and Ernest," "Phoebe, Ernest, and Cupid," etc.
M. W. P.
It was the morning after the shipwreck. The five men still lay where
they had slept. A long time had passed since anybody had spoken. A long
time had passed since anybody had moved. Indeed, it, looked almost as if
they would never speak or move again. So bruised and bloodless of skin
were they, so bleak and sharp of feature, so stark and hollow of eye, so
rigid and moveless of limb that they might have been corpses. Mentally,
too, they were almost moribund. They stared vacantly, straight out to
sea. They stared with the unwinking fixedness of those whose gaze is
caught in hypnotic trance.
It was Frank Merrill who broke the silence finally. Merrill still looked
like a man of marble and his voice still kept its unnatural tone, level,
monotonous, metallic. "If I could only forget the scream that Norton kid
gave when he saw the big wave coming. It rings in my head. And the way
his mother pressed his head down on her breast - oh, my God!"
His listeners knew that he was going to say this. They knew the very
words in which he would put it. All through the night-watches he had
said the same thing at intervals. The effect always was of a red-hot
wire drawn down the frayed ends of their nerves. But again one by one
they themselves fell into line.
"It was that old woman I remember," said Honey Smith. There were
bruises, mottled blue and black, all over Honey's body. There was a
falsetto whistling to Honey's voice. "That Irish granny! She didn't say
a word. Her mouth just opened until her jaw fell. Then the wave struck!"
He paused. He tried to control the falsetto whistling. But it got away
from him. "God, I bet she was dead before it touched her!"
"That was the awful thing about it," Pete Murphy groaned. It was as
inevitable now as an antiphonal chorus. Pete's little scarred,
scratched, bleeding body rocked back and forth." The women and children!
But it all came so quick. I was close beside 'the Newlyweds.' She put
her arms around his neck and said, 'Your face'll be the last I'll look
on in this life, dearest! 'And she stayed there looking into his eyes.
It was the last face she saw all right." Pete stopped and his brow
blackened. " While she was sick in her stateroom, he'd been looking into
a good many faces besides hers, the - "
"I don't seem to remember anything definite about it," Billy Fairfax
said. It was strange to hear that beating pulse of horror in Billy's
mild tones and to see that look of terror frozen on his mild face. "I
had the same feeling that I've had in nightmares lots of times - that it
was horrible - and - I didn't think I could stand it another moment -
but - of course it would soon end - like all nightmares and I'd wake
Without reason, they fell again into silence.
They had passed through two distinct psychological changes since the sea
spewed them up. When consciousness returned, they gathered into a little
terror-stricken, gibbering group. At first they babbled. At first
inarticulate, confused, they dripped strings of mere words; expletives,
exclamations, detached phrases, broken clauses, sentences that started
with subjects and trailed, unpredicated, to stupid silence; sentences
beginning subjectless and hobbling to futile conclusion. It was as
though mentally they slavered. But every phrase, however confused and
inept, voiced their panic, voiced the long strain of their fearful
buffeting and their terrific final struggle. And every clause, whether
sentimental, sacrilegious, or profane, breathed their wonder, their
pathetic, poignant, horrified wonder, that such things could be. All
this was intensified by the anarchy of sea and air and sky, by the
incessant explosion of the waves, by the wind which seemed to sweep from
end to end of a liquefying universe, by a downpour which threatened to
beat their sodden bodies to pulp, by all the connotation of terror that
lay in the darkness and in their unguarded condition on a barbarous,
Then came the long, log-like stupor of their exhaustion.
With the day, vocabulary, grammar, logic returned. They still iterated
and reiterated their experiences, but with a coherence which gradually
grew to consistence. In between, however, came sudden, sinister attacks
"I remember wondering," Billy Fairfax broke their last silence suddenly,
"what would become of the ship's cat."
This was typical of the astonishing fatuity which marked their comments.
Billy Fairfax had made the remark about the ship's cat a dozen times.
And a dozen times, it had elicited from the others a clamor of similar
chatter, of insignificant haphazard detail which began anywhere and
But this time it brought no comment. Perhaps it served to stir faintly
an atrophied analytic sense. No one of them had yet lost the shudder and
the thrill which lay in his own narrative. But the experiences of the
others had begun to bore and irritate.
There came after this one remark another half-hour of stupid and
The storm, which had seemed to worry the whole universe in its grip, had
died finally but it had died hard. On a quieted earth, the sea alone
showed signs of revolution. The waves, monstrous, towering, swollen,
were still marching on to the beach with a machine-like regularity that
was swift and ponderous at the same time. One on one, another on
another, they came, not an instant between. When they crested,
involuntarily the five men braced themselves as for a shock. When they
crashed, involuntarily the five men started as if a bomb had struck.
Beyond the wave-line, under a cover of foam, the jaded sea lay feebly
palpitant like an old man asleep. Not far off, sucked close to a ragged
reef, stretched the black bulk that had once been the Brian Boru.
Continually it leaped out of the water, threw itself like a live
creature, breast-forward on the rock, clawed furiously at it, retreated
a little more shattered, settled back in the trough, brooded an instant,
then with the courage of the tortured and the strength of the dying,
reared and sprang at the rock again.
Up and down the beach stretched an unbroken line of wreckage. Here and
there, things, humanly shaped, lay prone or supine or twisted into crazy
attitudes. Some had been flung far up the slope beyond the water-line.
Others, rolling back in the torrent of the tide, engaged in a ceaseless,
grotesque frolic with the foamy waters. Out of a mass of wood caught
between rocks and rising shoulder-high above it, a woman's head, livid,
rigid, stared with a fixed gaze out of her dead eyes straight at their
group. Her blonde hair had already dried; it hung in stiff, salt-clogged
masses that beat wildly about her face. Beyond something rocking between
two wedged sea-chests, but concealed by them, constantly kicked a sodden
foot into the air. Straight ahead, the naked body of a child flashed to
the crest of each wave.
All this destruction ran from north to south between two reefs of black
rock. It edged a broad bow-shaped expanse of sand, snowy, powdery,
hummocky, netted with wefts of black seaweed that had dried to a
rattling stiffness. To the east, this silvery crescent merged finally
with a furry band of vegetation which screened the whole foreground of
The day was perfect and the scene beautiful. They had watched the sun
come up over the trees at their back. And it was as if they had seen a
sunrise for the first time in their life. To them, it was neither
beautiful nor familiar; it was sinister and strange. A chill, that was
not of the dawn but of death itself, lay over everything. The morning
wind was the breath of the tomb, the smells that came to them from the
island bore the taint of mortality, the very sunshine seemed icy. They
suffered - the five survivors of the night's tragedy - with a scarifying
sense of disillusion with Nature. It was as though a beautiful, tender,
and fondly loved mother had turned murderously on her children, had
wounded them nearly to death, had then tried to woo them to her breast
again. The loveliness of her, the mindless, heartless, soulless
loveliness, as of a maniac tamed, mocked at their agonies, mocked with
her gentle indifference, mocked with her self-satisfied placidity,
mocked with her serenity and her peace. For them she was dead - dead
like those whom we no longer trust.
The sun was racing up a sky smooth and clear as gray glass. It dropped
on the torn green sea a shimmer that was almost dazzling; but ere was
something incongruous about that - as though Nature had covered her
victim with a spangled scarf. It brought out millions of sparkles in the
white sand; and there seemed something calculating about that - as
though she were bribing them with jewels to forget.
"Say, let's cut out this business of going, over and over it," said
Ralph Addington with a sudden burst of irritability. "I guess I could
give up the ship's cat in exchange for a girl or two." Addington's face
was livid; a muscular contraction kept pulling his lips away from his
white teeth; he had the look of a man who grins satanically at regular
By a titanic mental effort, the others connected this explosion with
Billy Fairfax's last remark. It was the first expression of an emotion
so small as ill-humor. It was, moreover, the first excursion out of the
beaten path of their egotisms. It cleared the atmosphere a little of
that murky cloud of horror which blurred the sunlight. Three of the
other four men - Honey Smith, Frank Merrill, Pete Murphy - actually
turned and looked at Ralph Addington. Perhaps that movement served to
break the hideous, hypnotic spell of the sea.
"Right-o!" Honey Smith agreed weakly. It was audible in his voice, the
effort to talk sanely of sane things, and in the slang of every day.
"Addington's on. Let's can it! Here we are and here we're likely to stay
for a few days. In the meantime we've got to live. How are we going to
pull it off?"
Everybody considered his brief harangue; for an instant, it looked as
though this consideration was taking them all back into aimless
meditation. Then, "That's right," Billy Fairfax took it up heroically.
"Say, Merrill," he added in almost a conversational tone, "what are our
chances? I mean how soon do we get off?"
This was the first question anybody had asked. It added its
infinitesimal weight to the wave of normality which was settling over
them all. Everybody visibly concentrated, listening for the answer.
It came after an instant, although Frank Merrill palpably pulled himself
together to attack the problem. "I was talking that matter over with
Miner just yesterday," he said. "Miner said God, I wonder where he is
now - and a dependent blind mother in Nebraska."
"Cut that out," Honey Smith ordered crisply.
"We - we - were trying to figure our chances in case of a wreck," Frank
Merrill continued slowly. "You see, we're out of the beaten path - way
out. Those days of drifting cooked our goose. You can never tell, of
course, what will happen in the Pacific where there are so many tramp
craft. On the other hand - " he paused and hesitated. It was evident,
now that he had something to expound, that Merrill had himself almost
under command, that his hesitation arose from another cause. "Well,
we're all men. I guess it's up to me to tell you the truth. The sooner
you all know the worst, the sooner you'll pull yourselves together. I
shouldn't be surprised if we didn't see a ship for several weeks -
Another of their mute intervals fell upon them. Dozens of waves flashed
and crashed their way up the beach; but now they trailed an iridescent
network of foam over the lilac-gray sand. The sun raced high; but now it
poured a flood of light on the green-gray water. The air grew bright and
brighter. The earth grew warm and warmer. Blue came into the sky,
deepened - and the sea reflected it, Suddenly the world was one huge
glittering bubble, half of which was the brilliant azure sky and half
the burnished azure sea. None of the five men looked at the sea and sky
now. The other four were considering Frank Merrill's words and he was
considering the other four.
"Lord, God!" Ralph Addington exclaimed suddenly. "Think of being in a
place like this six months or a year without a woman round! Why, we'll
be savages at the end of three months." He snarled his words. It was as
if a new aspect of the situation - an aspect more crucially alarming
than any other - had just struck him.
"Yes," said Frank Merrill. And for a moment, so much had he recovered
himself, he reverted to his academic type. "Aside from the regret and
horror and shame that I feel to have survived when every woman drowned,
I confess to that feeling too. Women keep up the standards of life. It
would have made a great difference with us if there were only one or two
"If there'd been five, you mean," Ralph Addington amended. A feeble,
white-toothed smile gleamed out of his dark beard. He, too, had pulled
himself together; this smile was not muscular contraction. "One or two,
and the fat would be in the fire."
Nobody added anything to this. But now the other three considered Ralph
Addington's words with the same effort towards concentration that they
had brought to Frank Merrill's. Somehow his smile - that flashing smile
which showed so many teeth against a background of dark beard - pointed
his words uncomfortably.
Of them all, Ralph Addington was perhaps, the least popular. This was
strange; for he was a thorough sport, a man of a wide experience. He was
salesman for a business concern that manufactured a white shoe-polish,
and he made the rounds of the Oriental countries every year. He was a
careful and intelligent observer both of men and things. He was widely
if not deeply read. He was an interesting talker. He could, for or
instance, meet each of the other four on some point of mental contact. A
superficial knowledge of sociology and a practical experience with many
races brought him and Frank Merrill into frequent discussion. His
interest in all athletic sports and his firsthand information in regard
to them made common ground between him and Billy Fairfax. With Honey
Smith, he talked business, adventure, and romance; with Pete Murphy,
German opera, French literature, American muckraking, and Japanese art.
The flaw which made him alien was not of personality but of character.
He presented the anomaly of a man scrupulously honorable in regard to
his own sex, and absolutely codeless in regard to the other. He was what
modern nomenclature calls a "contemporaneous varietist." He was, in
brief, an offensive type of libertine. Woman, first and foremost, was
his game. Every woman attracted him. No woman held him. Any new woman,
however plain, immediately eclipsed her predecessor, however beautiful.
The fact that amorous interests took precedence over all others was
quite enough to make him vaguely unpopular with men. But as in addition,
he was a physical type which many women find interesting, it is likely
that an instinctive sex-jealousy, unformulated but inevitable, biassed
their judgment. He was a typical business man; but in appearance he
represented the conventional idea of an artist. Tall, muscular,
graceful, hair thick and a little wavy, beard pointed and golden-brown,
eyes liquid and long-lashed, women called him "interesting." There was,
moreover, always a slight touch of the picturesque in his clothes; he
was master of the small amatory ruses which delight flirtatious women.
In brief, men were always divided in their own minds in regard to Ralph
Addington. They knew that, constantly, he broke every canon of that
mysterious flexible, half-developed code which governs their relations
with women. But no law of that code compelled them to punish him for
ungenerous treatment of somebody's else wife or sister. Had he been
dishonorable with them, had he once borrowed without paying, had he once
cheated at cards, they would have ostracized him forever. He had done
none of these things, of course.
"By jiminy!" exclaimed Honey Smith, "how I hate the unfamiliar air of
everything. I'd like to put my lamps on something I know. A ranch and a
round-up would look pretty good to me at this moment. Or a New England
farmhouse with the cows coming home. That would set me up quicker than a
"The University campus would seem like heaven to me," Frank Merrill
confessed drearily, "and I'd got so the very sight of it nearly drove me
"The Great White Way for mine," said Pete Murphy, "at night - all the
corset and whisky signs flashing, the streets jammed with
benzine-buggies, the sidewalks crowded with boobs, and every lobster
palace filled to the roof with chorus girls."
"Say," Billy Fairfax burst out suddenly; and for the first time since
the shipwreck a voice among them carried a clear business-like note of
curiosity. "You fellows troubled with your eyes? As sure as shooting,
I'm seeing things. Out in the west there - black spots - any of the rest
of you get them?"
One or two of the group glanced cursorily backwards. A pair of
perfunctory "Noes!" greeted Billy's inquiry.
"Well, I'm daffy then," Billy decided. He went on with a sudden abnormal
volubility. "Queer thing about it is I've been seeing them the whole
morning. I've just got back to that Point where I realized there was
something wrong. I've always had a remarkably far sight." He rushed on
at the same speed; but now he had the air of one who is trying to
reconcile puzzling phenomena with natural laws. "And it seems as if -
but there are no birds large enough - wish it would stop, though.
Perhaps you get a different angle of vision down in these parts. Did any
of you ever hear of that Russian peasant who could see the four moons of
Jupiter without a glass? The astronomers tell about him."
Nobody answered his question. But it seemed suddenly to bring them back
to the normal.
"See here, boys," Frank Merrill said, an unexpected note of authority in
his voice, "we can't sit here all the morning like this. We ought to rig
up a signal, in case any ship -. Moreover, we've got to get together and
save as much as we can. We'll be hungry in a little while. We can't lie
down on that job too long."
Honey Smith jumped to his feet. "Well, Lord knows, I want to get busy. I
don't want to do any more thinking, thank you. How I ache! Every muscle
in my body is raising particular Hades at this moment."
The others pulled themselves up, groaned, stretched, eased protesting
muscles. Suddenly Honey Smith pounded Billy Fairfax on the shoulder,
"You're it, Billy," he said and ran down the beach. In another instant
they were all playing tag. This changed after five minutes to baseball
with a lemon for a ball and a chair-leg for a bat. A mood of wild
exhilaration caught them. The inevitable psychological reaction had set
in. Their morbid horror of Nature vanished in its vitalizing flood like
a cobweb in a flame. Never had sea or sky or earth seemed more lovely,
more lusciously, voluptuously lovely. The sparkle of the salt wind
tingled through their bodies like an electric current. The warmth in the
air lapped them like a hot bath. Joy-in-life flared up in them to such a
height that it kept them running and leaping meaninglessly. They shouted
wild phrases to each other. They burst into song. At times they yelled
scraps of verse.
"We'll come across something to eat soon," said Frank Merrill, breathing
hard. "Then we'll be all right."
"I feel - better - for that run - already," panted Billy Fairfax.
"Haven't seen a black spot for five minutes."
Nobody paid any attention to him, and in a few minutes he was paying no
attention to himself. Their expedition was offering too many shocks of
horror and pathos. Fortunately the change in their mood held. It was,
indeed, as unnatural as their torpor, and must inevitably bring its own
reaction. But after each of these tragic encounters, they recovered
buoyancy, recovered it with a resiliency that had something almost
light-headed about it.
"We won't touch any of them now," Frank Merrill ordered peremptorily.
"We can attend to them later. They'll keep coming back. What we've got
to do is to think of the future. Get everything out of the water that
looks useful - immediately useful," he corrected himself. "Don't bother
about anything above high-water mark - that's there to stay. And work
like hell every one of you!"
Work they did for three hours, worked with a kind of frenzied delight in
action and pricked on by a ravenous hunger. In and out of the combers
they dashed, playing a desperate game of chance with Death.
Helter-skelter, hit-or-miss, in a blind orgy of rescue, at first they
pulled out everything they could reach. Repeatedly, Frank Merrill
stopped to lecture them on the foolish risks they were taking, on the
stupidity of such a waste of energy. "Save what we need!' he iterated
and reiterated, bellowing to make himself heard. "What we can use now -
canned stuff, tools, clothes! This lumber'll come back on the next
He seemed to keep a supervising eye on all of them; for his voice,
shouting individual orders, boomed constantly over the crash of the
waves. Realizing finally that he was the man of the hour, the others
ended by following his instructions blindly.
Merrill, himself, was no shirk. His strength seemed prodigious. When any
of the others attempted to land something too big to handle alone, he
was always near to help; and yet, unaided, he accomplished twice as much
as the busiest.
Frank Merrill, professor of a small university in the Middle West, was
the scholar of the group, a sociologist traveling in the Orient to study
conditions. He was not especially popular with his companions, although
they admired him and deferred to him. On the other hand, he was not
unpopular; it was more that they stood a little in awe of him.
On his mental side, he was a typical academic product. Normally his
conversation, both in subject-matter and in verbal form, bore towards
pedantry. It was one curious effect of this crisis that he had reverted
to the crisp Anglo-Saxon of his farm-nurtured youth.
On his moral side, he was a typical reformer, a man of impeccable
private character, solitary, a little austere. He had never married; he
had never sought the company of women, and in fact he knew nothing about
them. Women had had no more bearing on his life than the fourth
On his physical side he was a wonder.
Six feet four in height, two hundred and fifty pounds in weight, he
looked the viking. He had carried to the verge of middle age the habits
of an athletic youth. It was said that half his popularity in his
university world was due to the respect he commanded from the students
because of his extraordinary feats in walking and lifting. He was
impressive, almost handsome. For what of his face his ragged, rusty
beard left uncovered was regularly if coldly featured. He was ascetic in
type. Moreover, the look of the born disciplinarian lay on him. His blue
eyes carried a glacial gleam. Even through his thick mustache, the lines
of his mouth showed iron.
After a while, Honey Smith came across a water-tight tin of matches.
"Great Scott, fellows!" he exclaimed. "I'm hungry enough to drop. Let's
knock off for a while and feed our faces. How about mock turtle, chicken
livers, and red-headed duck?"
They built a fire, opened cans of soup and vegetables.
"The Waldorf has nothing on that," Pete Murphy said when they stopped,
"Say, remember to look for smokes, all of you," Ralph Addington
admonished them suddenly.
"You betchu!" groaned Honey Smith, and his look became lugubrious. But
his instinct to turn to the humorous side of things immediately crumpled
his brown face into its attractive smile. "Say, aren't we going to be
the immaculate little lads? I can't think of a single bad habit we can
acquire in this place. No smokes, no drinks, few if any eats - and not a
chorister in sight. Let's organize the Robinson Crusoe Purity League,
Parlor Number One."
"Oh, gee!" Pete Murphy burst out. "It's just struck me. The Wilmington
'Blue,' is lost forever - it must have gone down with everything else."
Nobody spoke. It was an interesting indication of how their sense of
values had already shifted that the loss to the world of one of its
biggest diamonds seemed the least of their minor disasters.
"Perhaps that's what hoodooed us," Pete went on. "You know they say the
Wilmington 'Blue' brought bad luck to everybody who owned it. Anyway,
battle, murder, adultery, rape, rapine, and sudden death have followed
it right along the line down through history. Oh, it's been a busy cake
of ice - take it from muh! Hope the mermaids fight shy of it."
"The Wilmington 'Blue' isn't alone in that," Ralph Addington said. "All
big diamonds have raised hell. You ought to hear some of the stories
they tell in India about the rajahs' treasures. Some of those briolettes
- you listen long enough and you come to the conclusion that the sooner
all the big stones are cut up, the better."
"I bet this one isn't gone," said Pete. "Anybody take me? That's the
contrariety of the beasts - they won't stay lost. We'll find that stone
yet - where among our loot. The first thing we know, we'll be all
knifing each other to get it."
"Time's up," called Frank Merrill. "Sorry to drive you, but we've got to
keep at it as long as the light lasts. After to-day, though, we need
work only at high water. Between times, we can explore the island - " He
spoke as if he were wheedling a group of boys with the promise of play.
"Select a site for our capital city" - Honey Smith helped him out
facetiously - "lay out streets - begin to excavate for the church,
town-hall, schoolhouse, and library."
"The first thing to do now," Frank Merrill went on, as usual, ignoring
all facetiousness, "is to put up a signal."
Under his direction, they nailed a pair of sheets, one at the southern,
the other at the northern reef, to saplings which they stripped of
branches. Then they went back to the struggle for salvage.
The fascination of work - and of such novel work - still held them. They
labored the rest of the morning, lay off for a brief lunch, went at it
again in the afternoon, paused for dinner, and worked far into the
evening. Once they stopped long enough to build a huge signal fire on
the each. When they turned in, not one of them but nursed torn and
blistered hands. Not one of them but fell asleep the instant he lay
They slept until long after sunrise.
It was Pete Murphy who waked them. "Say, who was it, yesterday, talked
about seeing black spots? I'm hanged if I'm not hipped, too. When I woke
just before sunrise, there were black things off there in the west. Of
course I was almost dead to the world but - "
"Like great birds?" Billy Fairfax asked with interest.
"Bats from your belfry," commented Ralph Addington. Because of his
constant globe-trotting, Addington's slang was often a half-decade
behind the times.
"Too much sunlight," Frank Merrill explained. "Lucky thing, we don't any
of us have to wear glasses. We'd certainly be up against it in this
double glare. Sand and sun both, you see! And you can thank whatever
instinct that's kept you all in training. This shipwreck is the most
perfect case I've ever seen of the survival of the fittest."
And in fact, they were all, except for Pete Murphy, big men, and all,
even he, active, strong-muscled, and in the pink of condition.
The huge tide had not entirely subsided, but there was a perceptible
diminution in the height of the waves. Up beyond the water-line lay a
fresh installment of jetsam. But, as before, they labored only to save
the flotsam. They worked all the morning.
In the afternoon, they dug a huge trench. Frank Merrill presiding, they
buried the dead with appropriate ceremony.
"Thank God, that's done," Ralph Addington said with a shudder. "I hate
death and everything to do with it."
"Yes, we'll all be more normal now they're gone," Frank Merrill added.
"And the sooner everything that reminds us of them is gone the better."
"Say," Honey Smith burst out the next morning. "Funny thing happened to
me in the middle the night. I woke out of a sound sleep - don't know why
- woke with a start as if somebody'd shaken me - felt something brush me
so close - well, it touched me. I was so dead that I had to work like
the merry Hades to open my eyes - seemed as if it was a full minute
before I could lift my eyelids. When I could make things out - damned if
there wasn't a bird - a big bird - the biggest bird I ever saw in my
life - three times as big as any eagle - flying over the water."
Nothing could better have indicated Honey's mental turmoil than the fact
that he talked in broken phrases rather than in his usual clear,
swift-footed curt sentences.
Nobody noticed this. Nobody offered comment. Nobody seemed surprised. In
fact, all the psychological areas which explode in surprise and wonder
were temporarily deadened.
"As sure as I live," Honey continued indignantly, "that bird's wings
must have extended twenty feet above its head."
"Oh, get out!" said Ralph Addington perfunctorily.
"As sure as I'm sitting here," Honey went on earnestly. "I heard a
woman's laugh. Any of you others get it?"
The sense of humor, it seemed, was not extinct. Honey's companions burst
into roars of laughter. For the rest of the morning, they joked Honey
about his hallucination. And Honey, who always responded in kind to any
badinage, received this in silence. In fact, wherever he could, a little
pointedly, he changed the subject.
Honey Smith was the type of man whom everybody jokes, partly because he
received it with such good humor, partly because he turned it back with
so ready and so charming a wit. Also it gave his fellow creatures a
gratifying sense of equality to pick humorous flaws in one so manifestly
a darling of the gods.
Honey Smith possessed not a trace of genius, not a suggestion of what is
popularly termed "temperament." He had no mind to speak of, and not more
than the usual amount of character. In fact, but for one thing, he was
an average person. That one thing was personality - and personality he
possessed to an extraordinary degree. Indeed, there seemed to be
something mysteriously compelling about this personality of Honey's. The
whole world of creatures felt its charm. Dumb beasts fawned on him.
Children clung to him. Old people lingered near as though they could
light dead fires in the blaze of his radiant youth. Men hob-nobbed with
him; his charm brushed off on to the dryest and dullest so that,
temporarily, they too bloomed with personality. As for women - His
appearance among them was the signal for a noiseless social cataclysm.
They slipped and slid in his direction as helplessly as if an inclined
plane had opened under their feet. They fluttered in circles about him
like birds around a light. If he had been allowed to follow the pull of
his inclination, they would have held a subsidiary place in his
existence. For he was practical, balanced, sane. He had, moreover, the
tendency towards temperance of the born athlete. Besides all this, his
main interests were man-interests. But women would not let him alone. He
had but to look and the thing was done. Wreaths hung on every balcony
for Honey Smith and, always at his approach, the door of the harem swung
wide. He was a little lazy, almost discourteously uninterested in his
attitude towards, the individual female; for he had never had to exert
It is likely that all this personal popularity would have been the
result of that trick of personality. But many good fairies had been
summoned to Honey's christening; he had good looks besides. He was
really tall, although his broad shoulders seemed to reduce him to medium
height. Brown-skinned, brown-eyed, brown-haired, his skin was as smooth
as satin, his eyes as clear as crystal, his hair as thick as fur. His
expression had tremendous sparkle. But his main physical charm was a
smile which crumpled his brown face into an engaging irregularity of
contour and lighted it with an expression brilliant with mirth and
He was a true soldier of fortune. In the ten years which his business
career covered be had engaged in a score of business ventures. He had
lost two fortunes. Born in the West, educated in the East, he had
flashed from coast to coast so often that he himself would have found it
hard to say where he belonged.
He was the admiration and the wonder and the paragon and the criterion
of his friend Billy Fairfax, who had trailed his meteoric course through
college and who, when the Brian Boru went down, was accompanying him on
his most recent adventure - a globe-trotting trip in the interests of a
moving-picture company. Socially they made an excellent team. For Billy
contributed money, birth, breeding, and position to augment Honey's
initiative, enterprise, audacity, and charm. Billy Fairfax offered other
contrasts quite as striking. On his physical side, he was shapelessly
strong and hopelessly ugly, a big, shock-headed blond. On his personal
side "mere mutt-man" was the way one girl put it, "too much of a damned
gentleman" Honey Smith said to him regularly.
Billy Fairfax was not, however, without charm of a certain shy, evasive,
slow-going kind; and he was not without his own distinction. His huge
fortune had permitted him to cultivate many expensive sports and
sporting tastes. His studs and kennels and strings of polo ponies were
famous. He was a polo-player well above the average and an aviator not
far below it.
Pete Murphy, the fifth of the group, was the delight of them all. The
carriage of a bantam rooster, the courage of a lion, more brain than he
could stagger under; a disposition fiery, mercurial, sanguine, witty; he
was made, according to Billy Fairfax's dictum, of "wire and brass
tacks," and he possessed what Honey Smith (who himself had no mean gift
in that direction) called "the gift of gab." He lived by writing
magazine articles. Also he wrote fiction, verse, and drama. Also he was
a painter. Also he was a musician. In short, he was an Irishman.
Artistically, he had all the perception of the Celt plus the acquired
sapience of the painter's training. If he could have existed in a
universe which consisted entirely of sound and color, a universe
inhabited only by disembodied spirits, he would have been its ablest
citizen; but he was utterly disqualified to live in a human world. He
was absolutely incapable of judging people. His tendency was to
underestimate men and to overestimate women. His life bore all the scars
inevitable to such an instinct. Women, in particular, had played ducks
and drakes with his career. Weakly chivalrous, mindlessly gallant, he
lacked the faculty of learning by experience - especially where the
other sex were concerned. "Predestined to be stung!" was, his first
wife's laconic comment on her ex-husband. She, for instance, was
undoubtedly the blameworthy one in their marital failure, but she had
managed to extract a ruinous alimony from him. Twice married and twice
divorced, he was traveled through the Orient to write a series of muck
raking articles and, incidentally if possible, to forget his last
unhappy matrimonial venture.
Physically, Pete was the black type of Celt. The wild thatch of his
scrubbing-brush hair shone purple in the light. Scrape his face as he
would, the purple shadow of his beard seemed ingrained in his white
white skin. Black-browed and black-lashed, he had the luminous
blue-gray-green eyes of the colleen. There was a curious untamable
quality in his look that was the mixture of two mad strains, the
aloofness of the Celt and the aloofness of the genius.
Three weeks passed. The clear, warm-cool, lucid, sunny weather kept up.
The ocean flattened, gradually. Twice every twenty-four hours the tide
brought treasure; but it brought less and less every day. Occasionally
came a stiffened human reminder of their great disaster. But calloused
as they were now to these experiences, the men buried it with hasty
ceremony and forgot.
By this time an incongruous collection stretched in parallel lines above
the high-water mark. "Something, anything, everything - and then some,"
remarked Honey Smith. Wood wreckage of all descriptions, acres of
furniture, broken, split, blistered, discolored, swollen; piles of
carpets, rugs, towels, bed-linen, stained, faded, shrunken, torn; files
of swollen mattresses, pillows, cushions, life-preservers; heaps of
table-silver and kitchen-ware tarnished and rusty; mounds of china and
glass; mountains of tinned goods, barrels boxes, books, suit-cases,
leather bags; trunks and trunks and more trunks and still more trunks;
for, mainly, the trunks had saved themselves.
Part of the time, in between tides, they tried to separate the grain of
this huge collection of lumber from the chaff; part of the time they
made exploring trips into the interior. At night they sat about their
huge fire and talked.
The island proved to be about twenty miles in length by seven in width.
It was uninhabited and there were no large animals on it. It was Frank
Merrill's theory that it was the exposed peak of a huge extinct volcano.
In the center, filling the crater, was a little fresh-water lake. The
island was heavily wooded; but in contour it presented only diminutive
contrasts of hill and valley. And except as the semi-tropical foliage
offered novelties of leaf and flower, the beauties of unfamiliar shapes
and colors, it did not seem particularly interesting. Ralph Addington
was the guide of these expeditions. From this tree, he pointed out, the
South Sea Islander manufactured the tappa cloth, from that the
poeepooee, from yonder the arva. Honey Smith used to say that the only
depressing thing about these trips was the utter silence of the gorgeous
birds which they saw on every side. On the other hand, they extracted
what comfort they could from Merrill's and Addington's assurance that,
should the ship's supply give out, they could live comfortably enough on
birds' eggs, fruit, and fish.
Sorting what Honey Smith called the "ship-duffle" was one prolonged
adventure. At first they made little progress; for all five of them
gathered over each important find, chattering like girls. Each man
followed the bent of his individual instinct for acquisitiveness. Frank
Merrill picked out books, paper, writing materials of every sort. Ralph
Addington ran to clothes. The habit of the man with whom it is a
business policy to appear well-dressed maintained itself; even in their
Eveless Eden, he presented a certain tailored smartness. Billy Fairfax
selected kitchen utensils and tools. Later, he came across a box filled
with tennis rackets, nets, and balls. The rackets' strings had snapped
and the balls were dead. He began immediately to restring the rackets,
to make new balls from twine, to lay out a court. Like true soldiers of
fortune, Honey Smith and Pete Murphy made no special collection; they
looted for mere loot's sake.
One day, in the midst of one of their raids, Honey Smith yelled a
surprised and triumphant, "By jiminy!" The others showed no signs, of
interest. Honey was an alarmist; the treasure of the moment might prove
to be a Japanese print or a corkscrew. But as nobody stirred or spoke,
he called, "The Wilmington 'Blue'!"
These words carried their inevitable magic. His companions dropped
everything; they swarmed about him.
Honey held on his palm what, in the brilliant sunlight looked like a
globe of blue fire, a fire that emitted rainbows instead of sparks.
He passed it from hand to hand. It seemed a miracle that the fingers
which touched it did not burst into flame. For a moment the five men
might have been five children.
"Well," said Pete Murphy, "according to all fiction precedent, the rest
of us ought to get together immediately, if not a little sooner, and
murder you, Honey."
"Go as far as you like," said Honey, dropping the stone into the pocket
of his flannel shirt. "Only if anybody really gets peeved about this
junk of carbon, I'll give it to him."
For a while life flowed wonderful. The men labored with a joy-in-work at
which they themselves marveled. Their out-of-doors existence showed its
effects in a condition of glowing health. Honey Smith changed first to a
brilliant red, then to a uniform coffee brown, and last to a shining
bronze which was the mixture of both these colors. Pete Murphy grew one
crop of freckles, then another and still another until Honey offered to
"excavate" his features. Ralph Addington developed a rich, subcutaneous,
golden-umber glow which made him seem, in connection with an occasional
unconventionality of costume, more than ever like the schoolgirl's idea
of an artist. Billy Fairfax's blond hair bleached to flaxen. His
complexion deepened in tone to a permanent pink. This, in contrast with
the deep clear blue of his eyes, gave him a kind of out-of-doors
comeliness. But Frank Merrill was the surprise of them all. He not only
grew handsomer, he grew younger; a magnificent, towering, copper-colored
monolith of a man, whose gray eyes were as clear as mountain springs,
whose white teeth turned his smile to a flash of light. Constantly they
patrolled the beach, pairs of them, studying the ocean for sight of a
distant sail, selecting at intervals a new spot on which at night to
start fires, or by day to erect signals. They bubbled with spirits. They
laughed and talked without cessation. The condition which Ralph
Addington had deplored, the absence of women, made first for social
relaxation, for psychological rest.
"Lord, I never noticed before - until I got this chance to get off and
think of it - what a damned bother women are," Honey Smith said one day.
"Of all the sexes that roam the earth, as George Ade says, I like them
least. What a mess they make of your time and your work, always
requiring so much attention, always having to be waited on, always
dropping things, always so much foolish fuss and ceremony, always asking
such footless questions and never hearing you when you answer them.
Never really knowing anything or saying anything. They're a different
kind of critter, that's all there is to it; they're amateurs at life.
They're a failure as a sex and an outworn convention anyway. Myself, I'm
for sending them to the scrap-heap. Votes for men!"
And with this, according to the divagations of their temperaments and
characters, the others strenuously concurred.
Their days, crowded to the brim with work, passed so swiftly that they
scarcely noticed their flight. Their nights, filled with a sleep that
was twin brother to Death, seemed not to exist at all.
Their evenings were lively with the most brilliant kind of man-talk. To
it, Frank Merrill brought his encyclopedic book knowledge, his
insatiable curiosity about life; Ralph Addington all the garnered
richness of his acute observation; Billy Fairfax his acquaintance with
the elect of the society or of the art world, his quiet, deferential
attitude of listener. But the events of these conversational orgies were
Honey Smith's adventures and Pete Murphy's romances. Honey's narrative
was crisp, clear, quick, straight from the shoulder, colloquial, slangy.
He dealt often in the first person and the present tense. He told a
plain tale from its simple beginning to its simple end. But Pete - . His
language had all Honey's simplicity lined terseness and, in addition, he
had the literary touch, both the dramatist's instinct and the
fictionist's insight. His stories always ran up to a psychological
climax; but this was always disguised by the best narratory tricks. He
was one of those men of whom people always say, "if he could only write
as he talks." In point of fact, he wrote much better than he talked -
but he talked better than any one else. The unanalytic never allowed in
him for the spell of the spoken word, nor for the fiery quality of his
As time went on, their talks grew more and ore confidential. Women's
faces began to gleam here and there in narrative. They began to indulge
in long discussions of the despised sex; at times they ran into fierce
controversy. Occasionally Honey Smith re-told a story which, from the
introduction of a shadowy girl-figure, became mysteriously more
interesting and compelling. Once or twice they nearly went over the
border-line of legitimate confidence, so intimate had their talk become
- muffled as it was by the velvety, star-sown dark and interrupted only
by the unheeded thunders of the surf. They were always pulling
themselves up to debate openly whether they should go farther, always,
on consideration, turning narrative into a channel much less
confidential and much less, interesting, or as openly plugging straight
ahead, carefully disguising names and places.
After a week or two, the first fine careless rapture of their escape
from death disappeared. The lure of loot evaporated. They did not stop
their work on "the ship-duffle," but it became aimless and undirected.
Their trips into the island seemed a little purposeless. Frank Merrill
had to scourge them to patrol the beach, to keep their signal sheets
flying, their signal fires burning. The effect upon their mental
condition of this loss of animus was immediate. They became perceptibly
more serious. Their first camp - it consisted only of five haphazard
piles of bedding - satisfied superficially the shiftless habits of their
womanless group; subconsciously, however, they all fell under the
depression of its discomfort and disorder. They bathed in the ocean
regularly but they did not shave. Their clothes grew ragged and torn,
and although there were scores of trunks packed with wearing apparel,
they did not bother to change them. Subconsciously they all responded to
these irregularities by a sudden change in spirit.
In the place of the gay talk-fests that filled their evenings, they
began to hold long pessimistic discussions about their future on the
island in case rescue were indefinitely delayed. Taciturn periods fell
upon them. Frank Merrill showed only a slight seriousness. Billy
Fairfax, however, wore a look permanently sobered. Pete Murphy became
subject at regular intervals to wild rhapsodical seizures when he raved,
almost in impromptu verse, about the beauty of sea and sky. These were
followed by periods of an intense, bitter, black, Celtic melancholy.
Ralph Addington degenerated into what Honey described as "the human
sourball." He spoke as seldom as possible and then only to snarl. He
showed a tendency to disobey the few orders that Frank Merrill, who
still held his position of leader, laid upon them. Once or twice he
grazed a quarrel with Merrill. Honey Smith developed an abnormality
equal to Ralph Addington's, but in the opposite direction. His spirits
never flagged; he brimmed with joy-in-life, vitality, and optimism. It
was as if he had some secret mental solace.
"Damn you and your sunny-side-up dope!" Ralph Addington growled at him
again and again. "Shut up, will you!"
One day Frank Merrill proposed a hike across the island. Billy Fairfax
who, at the head, had set a brisk pace for the file, suddenly dropped
back to the rear and accosted Honey Smith who had lagged behind. Honey
was skipping stones over the lake from a pocketful of flat pebbles.
"Say, Honey," Billy began. The other four men were far ahead, but Billy
kept his voice low. Do you remember that dream you had about the big
bird - the time we joshed you so?
"Sure do I," Honey said cheerfully. "Only remember one thing, Billy.
That wasn't a dream any more than this is."
"All right," Billy exclaimed. "You don't have to show me. A funny thing
happened to me last night. I'm not telling the others. They won't
believe it and - well, my nerves are all on end. I know I'd get mad if
they began to jolly. I was sleeping like the dickens - a
sure-for-certain Rip Van Winkle - when all of a sudden - Did you ever
have a pet cat, Honey?"
"Well, I've had lots of them. I like cats. I had one once that used to
wake me up at two minutes past seven every morning as regularly as two
minutes past seven came - not an instant before, not an instant after.
He turned the trick by jumping up on the bed and looking steadily into
my face. Never touched me, you understand. Well, l waked this morning
just after sunrise with a feeling that Kilo was there staring at me.
Somebody was - " Billy paused. He swallowed rapidly and wet his lips.
"But it wasn't Kilo." Billy paused again.
"I'm listening, bo," said Honey, shying another stone.
"It was a girl looking at me," Billy said, simply as though it were
something to be expected. He paused. Then, "Get that? A girl! She was
bending over me - pretty close - I could almost touch her. I can see her
now as plainly as I see you. She was blonde. One of those pale-gold
blondes with hair like honey and features cut with a chisel. You know
the type. Some people think it's cold. It's a kind of beauty that's
always appealed to me, though." He stopped.
"Well," Honey prodded him with a kind of non-committal calm, "what
"Nothing. If you can believe me - nothing. I stared - oh, I guess I
stared for a quarter of a minute straight up into the most beautiful
pair of eyes that I ever saw in my life. I stared straight up into them
and I stared straight down into them. They were as deep as a well and as
gray as a cloud and as cold as ice. And they had lashes - " For a moment
the quiet directness of Billy's narrative was disturbed by a whiff of
inner tumult. "Whew! what eyelashes! Honey, did you ever come across a
lonely mountain lake with high reeds growing around the edge? You know
how pure and unspoiled and virginal it seems. That was her eyes. They
sort of hypnotized me. My eyes closed and - when I awoke it was broad
daylight. What do you think?"
"Well," said Honey judicially, "I know just how you feel. I could have
killed the boys for joshing me the way they did. I was sure. I was
certain I heard a woman laugh that night. And, by God, I did hear it.
Whenever I contradict myself, something rises up and tells me I lie. But
- ." His radiant brown smile crumpled his brown face. "Of course, I
didn't hear it. I couldn't have heard it. And so I guess you didn't see
the peroxide you speak of. And yet if you Punch me in the jaw, I'll know
exactly how you feel." His face uncrumpled, smoothed itself out to his
rare look of seriousness." The point of it is that we're all a little
touched in the bean. I figure that you and I are alike in some things.
That's why we've always hung together. And all this queer stuff takes us
two the same way. Remember that psychology dope old Rand used to pump
into us at college? Well, our psychologies have got all twisted up by a
recent event in nautical circles and we're seeing things that aren't
there and not seeing things that are there."
"Honey," said Billy, "that's all right. But I want you to understand me
and I don't want you, to make any mistake. I saw a girl."
"And don't forget this," answered Honey. "I heard one."
Billy made no allusion to any of this with the other three men. But for
the rest of the day, he had a return of his gentle good humor. Honey's
spirits fairly sizzled.
That night Frank Merrill suddenly started out of sleep with a yelled,
"What was that?"
"What was what?" everybody demanded, waking immediately to the panic in
"That cry," he explained breathlessly, "didn't you hear it?" Frank's
eyes were brilliant with excitement; he was pale.
Nobody had heard it. And Ralph Addington and Pete Murphy, cursing
lustily, turned over and promptly fell asleep again. But Billy Fairfax
grew rapidly more and more awake. "What sort of a cry?" he asked. Honey
Smith said nothing, but he stirred the fire into a blaze in preparation
for a talk.
"The strangest cry I ever heard, long-drawn-out, wild - eerie's the word
for it, I guess," Frank Merrill said. As he spoke, he peered off into
the darkness. "If it were possible, I should say it was a woman's
The three men walked away from the camp, looked off into every direction
of the starlit night. Nowhere was there sign or sound of life.
"It must have been gulls," said Honey Smith.
"It didn't sound like gulls," answered Frank Merrill. For an instant he
fell into meditation so deep that he virtually forgot the presence of
the other two. "I don't know what it was," he said finally in an
exasperated tone. "I'm going to sleep."
They walked back to camp. Frank Merrill rolled himself up in a blanket,
lay down. Soon there came from his direction only the sound of regular,
"Well, Honey," Billy Fairfax asked, a note of triumph in his voice, "how
"Well, Billy," Honey Smith said in a baffled tone, "when you get the
answer, give it to me."
Nobody mentioned the night's experience the next day. But a dozen times
Frank Merrill stopped his work to gaze out to sea, an expression of
perplexity on his face.
The next night, however, they were all waked again, waked twice. It was
Ralph Addington who spoke first; a kind of hoarse grunt and a "What the
devil was that?"
"What?" the others called.
"Damned if I know," Ralph answered. "If you wouldn't think I was off my
conch, I'd say it was a gang of women laughing."
Pete Murphy, who always woke in high spirits, began to joke Ralph
Addington. The other three were silent. In fifteen minutes they were all
asleep; sixty, they were all awake again.
It was Pete Murphy who sounded the alarm this time. "Say, something
spoke to me," he said. "Or else I'm a nut. Or else I have had the most
vivid dream I've ever had." Evidently he did not believe that it was a
dream. He sat up and listened; the others listened, too. There was no
sound in the soft, still night, however. They talked for a little while,
a strangely subdued quintette. It was as though they were all trying to
comment on these experiences without saying anything about them.
They slept through the next night undisturbed until just before sunrise.
Then Honey Smith woke them. It was still dark, but a fine dawn-glow had
begun faintly to silver the east. "Say, you fellows," he exclaimed.
"Wake up!" His voice vibrated with excitement, although he seemed to try
to keep it low. "There are strange critters round here. No mistake this
time. Woke with a start, feeling that something had brushed over me -
saw a great bird - a gigantic thing - flying off heard one woman's laugh
- then another - ."
It was significant that nobody joked Honey this time. "Say, this
island'll be a nut-house if this keeps up," Pete Murphy said irritably.
"Let's go to sleep again."
"No, you don't!" said Honey. "Not one of you is going to sleep. You're
all going to sit up with me until the blasted sun comes up."
People always hastened to accommodate Honey. In spite of the hour, they
began to rake the fire, to prepare breakfast. The others became
preoccupied gradually, but Honey still sat with his face towards the
It grew brighter.
"It's time we started to build a camp, boys," Frank Merrill said,
withdrawing momentarily from deep reflection. "We'll go crazy doing
nothing all the time. We'll - ."
"Great God," Honey interrupted. "Look!"
Far out to sea and high in the air, birds were flying. There were five
of them and they were enormous. They flew with amazing strength,
swiftness, and grace; but for the most part they about a fixed area like
bees at a honey-pot. It was a limited area, but within it they dipped,
dropped, curved, wove in and out.
"Well, I'll be - ."
"They're those black spots we saw the first day, Pete," Billy Fairfax
said breathlessly. "We thought it was the sun."
"That's what I heard in the night," Frank Merrill gasped to Ralph
"But what are they?" asked Honey Smith in a voice that had a falsetto
note of wonder. "They laugh like a woman - take it from me."
"Eagles - buzzards - vultures - condors - rocs - phoenixes," Pete Murphy
recited his list in an or of imaginative conjecture.
"They're some lost species - something left over from a prehistoric era,"
Frank Merrill explained, shaking with excitement. "No vulture or eagle
or condor could be as big as that at this distance. At least I think
so." He paused here, as one studying the problem in the scientific
spirit. "Often in the Rockies I've confused a nearby chicken-hawk, at
first, with a far eagle. But the human eye has its own system of
triangulation. Those are not little birds nearby, but big birds far off.
See how heavily they soar. Do you realize what's happened? We've made a
discovery that will shake the whole scientific world. There, there,
"My God, look at them beat it!" said Honey; and there was awe in his
"Why, they're monster size," Frank Merrill went on, and his voice had
grown almost hysterical. "They could carry one of us off. We're not
safe. We must take measures at once to protect ourselves. Why, at night
- We must make traps. If we can capture one, or, better, a pair, we're
famous. We're a part of history now."
They watched the strange birds disappear over the water. For more than
an hour, the men sat still, waiting for them to return. They did not
come back, however. The men hung about camp all day long, talking of
nothing else. Night came at last, but sleep was not in them. The dark
seemed to give a fresh impulse to conversation. Conjecture battled with
theory and fact jousted with fancy. But one conclusion was as futile as
Frank Merrill tried to make them devise some system of defense or
concealment, but the others laughed at him. Talk as he would, he could
not seem to convince them of their danger. Indeed, their state of mind
was entirely different from his. Mentally he seemed to boil with
interest and curiosity, but it was the sane, calm, open-minded
excitement of the scientist. The others were alert and preoccupied in
turn, but there was an element of reserve in their attitude. Their eyes
kept going off into space, fixing there until their look became one
brooding question. They avoided conversation. They avoided each other's
Gradually they drew off from the fire, settled themselves to rest, fell
into the splendid sleep that followed their long out-of-doors days.
In the middle of the night, Billy Fairfax came out of a dream to the
knowledge that somebody was shaking him gently, firmly, furtively.
"Don't move!" Honey Smith's voice whispered; "keep quiet till I wake the
It was a still and moon-lighted world. Billy Fairfax lay quiet, his
wide-open eyes fixed on the luminous sky. The sense of drowse was being
brushed out of his brain as though by a mighty whirlwind, and in its
place came a vague sensation of confusion, of excitement, of a
miraculous abnormality. He heard Honey Smith crawl slowly from man to
man, heard him whisper his adjuration once, twice, three times. "Now,"
Honey called finally.
The men looked seawards. Then, simultaneously they leaped to their feet.
The semi-tropical moon was at its full. Huge, white, embossed, cut out,
it did not shine - it glared from the sky. It made a melted moonstone of
the atmosphere. It faded the few clouds to a sapphire-gray, just touched
here and there with the chalky dot of a star. It slashed a silver trail
across a sea jet-black except where the waves rimmed it with snow. Up in
the white enchantment, but not far above them, the strange air-creatures
were flying. They were not birds; they were winged women!
Darting, diving, glancing, curving, wheeling, they interwove in what
seemed the premeditated figures of an aerial dance. If they were
conscious of the group of men on the beach, they did not show it; they
seemed entirely absorbed in their flying. Their wings, like enormous
scimitars, caught the moonlight, flashed it back. For an interval, they
played close in a group inextricably intertwined, a revolving ball of
vivid color. Then, as if seized by a common impulse, they stretched,
hand in hand, in a line across the sky-drifted. The moonlight flooded
them full, caught glitter and gleam from wing-sockets, shot shimmer and
sheen from wing-tips, sent cataracts of iridescent color pulsing
between. Snow-silver one, brilliant green and gold another, dazzling
blue the next, luminous orange a fourth, flaming flamingo scarlet the
last, their colors seemed half liquid, half light. One moment the whole
figure would flare into a splendid blaze, as if an inner mechanism had
suddenly turned on all the electricity; the next, the blaze died down to
the fairy glisten given by the moonlight.
As if by one impulse, they began finally to fly upward. Higher and
higher they rose, still hand in hand. Detail of color and movement
vanished. The connotation of the sexed creature, of the human thing,
evaporated. One instant, relaxed, they seemed tiny galleons, all sails
set, that floated lazily, the sport of an aerial sea; another, supple
and sinuous, they seemed monstrous fish whose fins triumphantly clove
the air, monarchs of that aerial sea.
A little of this and then came another impulse. The great wings furled
close like blades leaping back to scabbard; the flying-girls dropped
sheer in a dizzying fall. Half-way to the ground, they stopped
simultaneously as if caught by some invisible air plateau. The great
feathery fans opened - and this time the men got the whipping whirr of
them - spread high, palpitated with color. From this lower level, the
girls began to fall again, but gently, like dropping clouds.
Nearer they came to the petrified group on the beach, nearer and nearer.
Undoubtedly they had known all the time that an audience was there;
undoubtedly they had planned this; they looked down and smiled.
And now the men had every detail of them - the brown seaweeds and green
sea-grasses that swathed them, their bodies just short of heroic size,
deep-bosomed, broad-waisted, long-limbed; their arms round like a
woman's and strong like a man's; their hair that fell, a braid over each
ear, twined with brilliant flowers and green vines; their faces
super-humanly beautiful, though elvish; the gaminerie in their laughing
eyes, which sparkled through half-closed, thick-lashed lids, the
gaminerie in their smiling mouths, which showed twin rows of pearl
gleaming in tricksy mirth; their big, strong-looking, long-fingered
hands; their slimly smooth, exquisitely shaped, too-tiny, transparent
feet; their strong wrists; their stem-like, breakable ankles. Closer and
closer and closer they came. And now the men could almost touch them.
They paused an instant and fluttered - fluttered like a swarm of
butterflies undecided where to fly. As though choosing to rest, they
hovered-hovered with a gentle, slow, seductive undulation of wings, of
hands, of feet.
Then another impulse took them.
They broke handclasps and up they went, like arrows straight up - up -
up - up. Then they turned out to sea, streaming through the air in line
still, but one behind the other. And for the first time, sound came from
them; they threw off peals of girl-laughter that fell like handfuls of
diamonds. Their mirth ended in a long, eerie cry. Then straight out to
the eastern horizon they went and away and off.
They were dwindling rapidly.
They were spots.
They were specks.
They were nothing.
Silence, profound, portentous, protracted, followed.
Finally, Honey Smith absently stooped and picked up a pebble. He threw
it over the silver ring of the flat, foam-edged, low-tide waves. It
curved downwards, hissed across a surface of water smooth as jade,
skipped four times, and dropped.
The men strained their eyes to follow the progress of this tangible
"Where do you suppose they've gone?" Honey said as unexcitedly as one
might inquire directions from a stranger.
"When do you suppose they'll come back?" Billy Fairfax added as casually
as one might ask the time.
"Did you notice the red-headed one?" asked Pete Murphy. "My first girl
had red hair. I always jump when I see a carrot-top." He made this
intimate revelation simply, as if the time for a conventional reticence
"They were lookers all right," Ralph Addington went on. "I'd pick the
golden blonde, the second from the right." He, too, spoke in a
matter-of-fact tone, as though he were selecting a favorite from the
front row in the chorus.
"It must have happened if we saw it," Frank Merrill said. There was in
his voice a note of petulance, almost childish. "But we ought not to
have seen it. It has no right to be. It upsets things so."
"What are we all standing up like gawks for?" Pete Murphy demanded with
a sudden irritability.
Everybody dropped. They all sat as they fell. They sat motionless. They
"The name of this place is 'Angel Island,'" announced Billy Fairfax
after a long time. His tone was that of a man whose thoughts, swirling
in phantasmagoria, seek anchorage in fact.
They did not sleep that night.
When Frank Merrill arose the next morning, Ralph Addington was just
returning from a stroll down the beach. Ralph looked at the same time
exhausted and recuperated. He was white, tense, wild-eyed, but recently
aroused interior fires glowed through his skin, made up for his lost
color and energy. Frank also had a different look. His eyes had kindled,
his face had become noticeably more alive. But it was the fire of the
intellect that had produced this frigid glow.
"Seen anything?" Frank Merrill inquired.
"Not a thing."
"You don't think they're frightened enough not to come back?"
The gleam in Ralph Addington's eye changed to flame. "I don't think
they're frightened at all. They'll come back all right. There's only one
thing that you can depend on in women; and that is that you can't lose
"I can scarcely wait to see them again," Frank exclaimed eagerly.
"Addington, I can write a monograph on those flying-maidens that will
make the whole world gasp. This is the greatest discovery of modern
times. Man alive, don't you itch to get to paper and pencil?"
"Not so I've noticed it," Ralph replied with contemptuous emphasis. "I
shall lie awake nights, just the same though."
"Say, fellers, we didn't dream that, did we?" Billy Fairfax called
suddenly, rolling out of the sleep that had followed their all-night
"Well, I reckon if it wasn't for the other four, no one of us would
trust his own senses," Frank Merrill said dryly.
"If you'd listened to me in the beginning," Honey Smith remarked in a
drowsy voice, not bothering to open his, eyes, "I wouldn't be the
I-told-you-so kid now."
"Well, if you'd listened to me and Pete!" said Billy Fairfax; "didn't we
think, way back there that first day, that our lamps were on the blink
because we saw black spots? Great Scott, what dreams I've had," he went
on, "a mixture of 'Arabian Nights,' 'Gulliver's Travels,' 'Peter
Wilkins,' 'Peter Pan,' 'Goosie,' Jules, Verne, H. G. Wells, and every
dime novel I've ever read. Do you suppose they'll come back?"
"I've just talked that over with Ralph," Frank Merrill answered him. "If
we've frightened them away forever, it will be a terrible loss to
Ralph Addington emitted one of his cackling, ironic laughs. "I guess I'm
not worrying as much about science as I might. But as to their coming
back - why, it stands to reason that they'll have just as much curiosity
about us as we have about them. Curiosity's a woman's strong point, you
know. Oh, they'll come back all right! The only question is, How soon?"
"It made me dream of music - of Siegfried." It was Pete Murphy who spoke
and he seemed to plump from sleep straight into the conversation. "What
a theme for grand opera. Women with wings! Flying-girls! Will you tell
me what the Hippodrome! has on Angel Island?"
"Nothing," said Honey Smith, "except this - you can get acquainted with
a Hippodrome girl - how long is it going to take us to get acquainted
with these angels?"
"Not any longer than usual," said Ralph Addington with an expressive
wink. "Leave that to me. I'm going now to see what I can see." He walked
rapidly down the beach, scaled the southern reef, and stood there
studying the horizon.
The others remained sitting on the sand. For a while they watched Ralph.
Then they talked the whole thing over with as much interest as if they
had not yet discussed it. Ralph rejoined them and they went through it
again. It was as though by some miracle of mind-transference, they had
all dreamed the same dream; as though, by some miracle of
sight-transference they had all seen the same vision; as though, by some
miracle of space-transference, they had all stepped into the fourth
dimension. Their comment was ever of the wonder of their strange
adventure, the beauty, the thrill, the romance of it. It had brought out
in them every instinct of chivalry and kindness, it had developed in
them every tendency towards high-mindedness and idealism. Angel Island
would be an Atlantis, an Eden, an Arden, an Arcadia, a Utopia, a
Milleamours, a Paradise, the Garden of Hesperides. Into it the Golden
Age would come again. They drew glowing pictures of the wonderful
friendships that would grow up on Angel Island between them and their
beautiful visitors. These poetic considerations gave way finally to a
discussion of ways and means. They agreed that they must get to work at
once on some sort of shelter for their guests, in case the weather
should turn bad. They even discussed at length the best methods of
teaching the English language. They talked the whole morning, going over
the same things again and again, questioning each other eagerly without
listening for an answer, interrupting ruthlessly, and then adding
The day passed without event. At the slightest sound they all jumped.
Their sleeplessness was beginning to tell on them and their nerves were
still obsessed by the unnaturalness of their experience. It was a long
time before they quieted down, but the night passed without
interruption. So did the next day. Another day went by and another, and
during this time they did little but sit about and talk.
"See here, boys," Ralph Addington said one morning. "I say we get
together and build some cabins. There's no calculating how long this
grand weather'll keep up. The first thing we know we'll be up against a
rainy season. Isn't that right, Professor?"
On most practical matters Ralph treated Frank Merrill's opinion with a
contempt that was offensively obvious to the others. In questions of
theory or of abstruse information, he was foolishly deferential. At
those times, he always gave Frank his title of Professor.
"I hardly think so," Frank Merrill answered. "I think we'll have an
equable, semi-tropical climate all the year round - about like
"Well, anyway," Ralph Addington went on, "it's barbarous living like
this. And we want to be prepared for anything." His gaze left Frank
Merrill's face and traveled with a growing significance to each of the
other three. "Anything," he repeated with emphasis. "We've got enough
truck here to make a young Buckingham Palace. And we'll go mad sitting
round waiting for those air-queens to pay us a visit. How about it?"
"It's an excellent idea," Frank Merrill said heartily. "I have been on
the point of proposing it many times myself."
However, they seemed unable to pull themselves together; they did
nothing that day. But the next morning, urged back to work by the
harrying monotony of waiting, they began to clear a space among the
trees close to the beach. Two of them had a little practical building
knowledge: Ralph Addington who had roughed it in many strange countries;
Billy Fairfax who, in the San Francisco earthquake, had on a wager built
himself a house. They worked with all their initial energy. They worked
with the impetus that comes from capable supervision. And they worked as
if under the impulse of some unformulated motive. As usual, Honey Smith
bubbled with spirits. Billy Fairfax and Pete Murphy hardly spoke, so
close was their concentration. Ralph Addington worked longer and harder
than anybody, and even Honey was not more gay; he whistled and sang
constantly. Frank Merrill showed no real interest in these proceedings.
He did his fair share of the work, but obviously without a driving
motive. He had reverted utterly to type. He spent his leisure writing a
monograph. When inspiration ran low, he occupied himself doctoring
books. Eternally, he hunted for the flat stones between which he pressed
their swollen bulks back to shape. Eternally he puttered about, mending
and patching them. He used to sit for hours at a desk which he had
rescued from the ship's furniture. The others never became accustomed to
the comic incongruity of this picture - especially when, later, he
virtually boxed himself in with a trio of book-cases.
"Wouldn't you think he was sitting in an office?" Ralph Addington said.
"Curious about Merrill," Honey Smith answered, indulging in one of his
sudden, off-hand characterizations, bull's-eye shots every one of them.
"He's a good man, ruined by culturine. He's the bucko-mate type
translated into the language of the academic world. Three centuries ago
he'd have been a Drake or a Frobisher. And to-day, even, if he'd
followed the lead of his real ability, he'd have made a great financier,
a captain of industry or a party boss. But, you see, he was brought up
to think that book-education was the whole cheese. The only ambition he
knows is to make good in the university world. How I hated that college
atmosphere and its insistence on culture! That was what riled me most
about it. As a general thing, I detest a professor. Can't help liking
old Frank, though."
The four men virtually took no time off from work; or at least the
change of work that stood for leisure was all in the line of
home-making. Eternally, they joked each other about these womanish
occupations; but they all kept steadily to it. Ralph Addington and Honey
Smith put the furniture into shape, repairing and polishing it. Billy
Fairfax sorted out the glass, china, tools, household utensils of every
Pete Murphy went through the trunks with his art side uppermost. He
collected all kinds of Oriental bric-a-brac, pictures and draperies. He
actually mended and pressed things; he had all the artist's capability
in these various feminine lines. When the others joked him about his
exotic and impracticable tastes, he said that, before he left, he
intended to establish a museum of fine arts, on Angel Island.
Hard as the men worked, they had always the appearance of those who
await the expected. But the expected did not occur; and gradually the
sharp edge of anticipation wore dull. Emotionally they calmed. Their
nerves settled to a normal condition. The sudden whirr of a bird's
flight attracted only a casual glance. In Ralph Addington alone,
expectation maintained itself at the boiling point. He trained himself
to work with one eye searching the horizon. One afternoon, when they had
scattered for a siesta, his hoarse cry brought them running to the beach
from all directions.
So suddenly had the girls appeared that they might have materialized
from the air. This time they had not come from the sea. When Ralph
discovered them, they were hovering back of them above the trees that
banded the beach. The sun was setting, blood-red; the whole western sky
had broken away. The girls seemed to be floating in a sea of
crimson-amber ether. Its light brought lustre to every feather; it
turned the edges of their wings to flame; it changed their smoothly
piled hair to helmets of burnished metal.
The men tore from the beach to the trees at full speed. For a moment the
violence of this action threw the girls into a panic. They fluttered,
broke lines, flew high, circled. And all the time, they uttered shrill
cries of distress.
"They're frightened," Billy Fairfax said. "Keep quiet, boys."
The men stopped running, stood stock-still.
Gradually the girls calmed, sank, took up the interweaving figures of
their air-dance. If at their first appearance they seemed creatures of
the sea, this time they were as distinctively of the forest. They looked
like spirits of the trees over which they hovered. Indeed, but for their
wings they might have been dryads. Wreaths of green encircled their
heads and waists. Long leafy streamers trailed from their shoulders.
Often in the course of their aerial play, they plunged down into the
Once, the blonde with the blue wings sailed out of the group and
balanced herself for a toppling second on a long, outstretching bough.
"Good Lord, what a picture!" Pete Murphy said.
As if she understood, she repeated her performance. She cast a glance
over her shoulder at them - unmistakably noting the effect.
"Hates herself, doesn't she?" commented Honey Smith. "They're talking!"
he added after an interval of silence. "Some one of them is giving
directions - I can tell by the tone of her voice. Can't make out which
one it is though. Thank God, they can talk!"
"It's the quiet one - the blonde - the one with the white wings," Billy
Fairfax explained. "She's captain. Some bean on her, too; she
straightened them out a moment ago when they got so frightened."
"I now officially file my claim," said Ralph Addington, "to that peachy
one - the golden blonde - the one with the blue wings, the one who tried
to stand on the bough. That girl's a corker. I can tell her kind of
pirate craft as far as I see it."
"Me for the thin one!" said Pete Murphy. "She's a pippin, if you please.
Quick as a cat! Graceful as they make them. And look at that mop of red
hair! Isn't that a holocaust? I bet she's a shrew."
You win, all right," agreed Ralph Addington. "I'd like nothing better
than the job of taming her, too."
"See here, Ralph," bantered Pete, "I've copped Brick-top for myself. You
keep off the grass. See!"
"All right," Ralph answered. "Katherine for yours, Petruchio. The golden
blonde for mine!" He smiled for the first time in days. In fact, at
sight of the flying-girls he had begun to beam with fatuous good nature.
Two blondes, two brunettes, and a red-top" said Honey Smith, summing
them up practically. "One of those brunettes, the brown one, must be a
Kanaka. The other's prettier - she looks like a Spanish woman. There's
something rather taking about the plain one, though. Pretty snappy - if
anybody should fly up in a biplane and ask you!"
"It's curious," Frank Merrill said with his most academic manner, "it
has not yet occurred to me to consider those young women from the point
of view of their physical pulchritude. I'm interested only in their
ability to fly. The one with the silver-white wings, the one Billy calls
the 'quiet one,' flies better than any of the others, The dark one on
the end, the one who looks like a Spaniard, flies least well. It is
rather disturbing, but I can think of them only as birds. I have to keep
recalling to myself that they're women. I can't realize it."
"Well, don't worry," Ralph Addington said with the contemptuous accent
with which latterly he answered all Frank Merrill's remarks. "You will."
The others laughed, but Frank turned on them a look of severe reproof.
"Oh, hell!" Honey Smith exclaimed in a regretful tone; "they're beating
it again. I say, girls," he called at the top of his lungs, "don't go!
Stay a little longer and we'll buy you a dinner and a taxicab."
Apparently the flying-girls realized that he was addressing them. For a
hair's breadth of a second they paused. Then, with a speed that had a
suggestion of panic in it, they flew out to sea. And again a flood of
girl-laughter fell in bubbles upon them.
"They distrust muh!" Honey commented. But he smiled with the indolent
amusement of the man who has always held the master-hand with women.
"Must have come from the east, this time," he said as they filed soberly
back to camp. "But where in thunder do they start from?"
They had, of course, discussed this question as they had discussed a
hundred other obvious ones. "I'm wondering now," Frank Merrill answered,
"if there are islands both to the east and the west. But, after all, I'm
more interested to know if there are any more of these winged women, and
if there are any males."
Again they talked far into the night. And as before their comment was of
the wonder, the romance, the poetry of their strange situation. And
again they drew imaginary pictures of what Honey Smith called "the young
Golden Age" that they would soon institute on Angel Island.
"Say," Honey remarked facetiously when at length they started to run
down, "what happens to a man if he marries an angel? Does he become
angel-consort or one of those seraphim arrangements?"
Ralph Addington laughed. But Billy Fairfax and Pete Murphy frowned.
Frank Merrill did not seem to hear him. He was taking notes by the
The men continued to work at the high rate of speed that, since the
appearance of the women, they had set for themselves. But whatever form
their labor took, their talk was ever of the flying-girls. They referred
to them individually now as the "dark one," the "plain one," the "thin
one," the "quiet one," and the "peachy one." They theorized eternally
about them. It was a long time, however, before they saw them again, so
long that they had begun to get impatient. In Ralph Addington this
uneasiness took the form of irritation. "If I'd had a gun," he snarled
more than once, "by the Lord Harry, I'd have winged one of them." He sat
far into the night and waited. He arose early in the morning and
watched. He went for long, slow, solitary, silent, prowling hikes into
the interior. His eyes began to look strained from so minute a study of
the horizon-line. He grew haggard. His attitude in the matter annoyed
Pete Murphy, who maintained that he had no right to spy on women.
Argument broke out between them, waxing hot, waned to silence, broke out
again and with increased fury. Frank Merrill and Billy Fairfax listened
to all this, occasionally smoothing things over between the disputants.
But Honey Smith, who seemed more amused than bothered, deftly fed the
flame of controversy by agreeing first with one and then with the other.
Late one afternoon, just as the evening star flashed the signal of
twilight, the girls came streaming over the sea toward the island.
At the first far-away glimpse, the men dropped their tools and ran to
the water's edge. Honey Smith waded out, waist-deep.
"Well, what do you know about that?" he called out. "Pipe the
They came massed vertically. In the distance they might have been a
rainbow torn from its moorings, borne violently forward on a high wind.
The rainbow broke in spots, fluttered, and then came together again. It
vibrated with color. It pulsed with iridescence.
"How the thunder - " Addington began and stopped. "Well, can you beat
it?" he concluded.
The human column was so arranged that the wings of one of the air-girls
concealed the body of another just above her.
The "dark one" led, flying low, her scarlet pinions beating slowly back
and forth about her head.
Just above, near enough for her body to be concealed by the scarlet
wings of the "dark one," but high enough for her pointed brown face to
peer between their curves, came the "plain one."
Higher flew the "thin one." Her body was entirely covered by the orange
wings of the "plain one," but her copper-colored hair made a gleamy spot
in their vase-shaped opening.
Still higher appeared the "peachy one." She seemed to be holding her
lustrous blonde head carefully centered in the oval between the "thin
one's" green-and-yellow plumage. She looked like a portrait in a frame.
Highest of them all, floating upright, a Winged Victory of the air, her
silver wings towering straight above her head, the cameo face of the
"quiet one" looked level into the distance.
Their wings moved in rotation, and with machine-like regularity. First
one pair flashed up, swept back and down, then another, and another. As
they neared, the color seemed the least wonderful detail of the picture.
For it changed in effect from a column of glittering wings to a column
of girl-faces, a column that floated light as thistle-down, a column
that divided, parted, opened, closed again.
The background of all this was a veil of dark gauze at the horizon-line,
its foil a golden, virgin moon, dangling a single brilliant star.
"They're talking!" Honey Smith exclaimed. "And they're leaving!"
The girls did not pause once. They flew in a straight line over the
island to the west, always maintaining their columnar formation. At
first the men thought that they were making for the trees. They ran
after them. The speed of their running had no effect this time on their
visitors, who continued to sail eastward. The men called on them to
stay. They called repeatedly, singly and in chorus. They called in every
tone of humble masculine entreaty and of arrogant masculine command. But
their cries might have fallen on marble ears. The girls neither turned
nor paused. They disappeared.
"Females are certainly alike under their skins, whether they're angels
or Hottentots," Ralph Addington commented. " That tableau appearance was
all cooked up for us. They must have practised it for hours."
"It has the rose-carnival at Tetaluma, Cal., faded," remarked Honey
"The 'quiet one' was giving the orders for that wing-movement," said
Billy Fairfax. "She whispered them, but I heard her. She engineered the
whole thing. She seems to be their leader."
"I got their voices this time," said Pete Murphy. "Beautiful, all of
them. Soprano, high and clear. They've got a language, all right, too.
What did you think of it, Frank?"
"Most interesting," replied Frank Merrill, "most interesting. A
preponderance of consonants. Never guttural in effect, and as you say,
beautiful voices, very high and clear."
"I don't see why they don't stop and play," complained Honey. His tone
was the petulant one of a spoiled child. It is likely that during the
whole course of his woman-petted existence, he had never been so
completely ignored. "If I only knew their lingo, I could convince them
in five minutes that we wouldn't hurt them."
"If we could only signal," said Billy Fairfax, "that if they'd only come
down to earth, we wouldn't go any nearer than they wanted. But the deuce
of it is proving to them that we don't bite."
"It is probably that they have known only males of a more primitive
type," Frank Merrill explained. "Possibly they are accustomed to
marriage by capture."
"That would be a very lucky thing," Ralph explained in an aside to
Honey. "Marriage by capture isn't such a foolish proposition, after all.
Look at the Sabine women. I never heard tell that there was any kick
coming from them. It all depends on the men."
"Oh, Lord, Ralph, marriage by capture isn't a sporting proposition,"
said Honey in a disgusted tone. "I'm not for it. A man doesn't get a run
for his money. It's too much like shooting trapped game."
"Well, I will admit that there's more fun in the chase," Ralph answered.
"Oh, well, if the little darlings are not accustomed to chivalry from
men," Pete Murphy was in the meantime saying, "that explains why they
stand us off."
It was typical of Pete to refer to the flying-girls as "little
darlings." The shortest among them was, of course, taller than he. But
to Pete any woman was "little one," no matter what her stature, as any
woman was "pure as the driven snow" until she proved the contrary. This
impregnable simplicity explained much of the disaster of his married
"I am convinced," Frank Merrill said meditatively, "we must go about
winning their confidence with the utmost care. One false step might be
fatal. I know what your impatience is though - for I can hardly school
myself to wait - that extraordinary phenomenon of the wings interests me
so much. The great question in my mind is their position biologically
"The only thing that bothers me," Honey contributed solemnly, "is
whether or not they're our social equals."
Even Frank Merrill laughed. "I mean, are they birds," he went on still
in a puzzled tone, "free creatures of the air, or, women, bound
creatures of the earth? And what should be our attitude toward them?
Have we the right to capture them as ornithological specimens, or is it
our duty to respect their liberty as independent human beings?
"They're neither birds nor women," Pete Murphy burst out impetuously.
"They're angels. Our duty is to fall down and worship them."
"They're women," said Billy Fairfax earnestly. "Our duty is to cherish
and protect them."
"They're girls," Honey insisted jovially, "our duty is to josh and jolly
them, to buy them taxicabs, theater-tickets, late suppers, candy, and
"They're females," said Ralph Addington contemptuously. "Our duty is to
tame, subjugate, infatuate, and control them."
Frank Merrill listened to each with the look on his face, half
perplexity, half irritation, which always came when the conversation
took a humorous turn. "I am myself inclined to look upon them as an
entirely new race of beings, requiring new laws," he said thoughtfully.
Although the quick appearance and the quick departure of the girls had
upset the men temporarily, they went back to work at once. And as though
inspired by their appearance, they worked like tigers. As before, they
talked constantly of them, piling mountains of conjecture on molehills
of fact. But now their talk was less of the wonder and the romance of
the situation and more of the irritation of it. Ralph Addington's unease
seemed to have infected them all. Frank Merrill had actually to coax
them to keep at their duty of patrolling the beach. They were constantly
studying the horizon for a glimpse of their strange visitors. Every
morning they said, "I hope they'll come to-day"; every night, "Perhaps
they'll come to-morrow." And always, "They won't put it over on us this
time when we're not looking."
But in point of fact, the next visit of the flying girls came when they
least expected it - late in the evening.
It had been damp and dull all day. A high fog was gradually melting out
of the air. Back of it a misty moon, more mature now, gleamed like a
flask of honey in a golden veil. A few stars glimmered, placid, pale,
and big. Suddenly between fog and earth - and they seemed to emerge from
the mist like dreams from sleep - appeared the five dazzling
The fog had blurred the vividness of their plumage. The color no longer
throbbed from wing-sockets to wing-tips; light no longer pulsated there.
But great scintillating beads of fog-dew outlined the long curves of the
wings, accentuated the long curves of the body. Hair, brows, lashes
glittered as if threaded with diamonds. Their cheeks and lips actually
glowed, luscious as ripe fruit.
"My God!" groaned Pete Murphy; "how beautiful and inaccessible! But
women should be inaccessible," he ended with a sigh.
"Not so inaccessible as they were, though,"
Ralph Addington said. Again the appearance of the women had transformed
him physically and mentally. He moved with the nervous activity of a man
strung on wires. His brown eyes showed yellow gleams like a cat's.
"They're flying lower and slower to-night."
It did seem as though the fog, light as it was, definitely impeded their
wings. It gave to their movements a little languor that had a plaintive
appealing quality. Perhaps they realized this themselves. In the midst
of their aerial evolutions suddenly - and apparently without cause -
they developed panic, turned seawards. Their audience, taken by
surprise, burst into shouts of remonstrance, ran after them. The clamor
and the motion seemed only to add to the girls' alarm. Their retreating
speed was almost frenzied.
"What the - what's frightened them?" Honey Smith asked. Honey's brows
had come together in an unaccustomed scowl. He bit his lips.
"Give it up," Billy Fairfax answered, and his tone boiled with
exasperation. "I hope they haven't been frightened away for good."
"I think every time it's the last," exclaimed Pete Murphy, "but they
keep coming back."
"Son," said Ralph Addington, and there was a perceptible element of
patronage in his tone, "I'll tell you the exact order of events. It
threw a scare into the girls to-night that they couldn't fly so well.
But in an hour's time, they'll be sore because they didn't put up a good
exhibition. Now, if I know anything at all about women - and maybe I
flatter myself, but I think I know a lot - they'll be back the first
thing to-morrow to prove to us that their bad flying was not our effect
on them but the weather's."
Whether Ralph's theory was correct could not, of course, be ascertained.
But in the matter of prophecy, he was absolutely vindicated. About
half-way through the morning five black spots appeared in the west. They
grew gradually to bewildering shapes and colors, for the girls came
dressed in gowns woven of brilliant flowers. And the torrents of their
beautiful hair floated loose. This time they held themselves grouped
close; they kept themselves aloof, high. But again came the sinuous
interplay of flower-clad bodies, the flashing evolution of rainbow
wings, the dazzling interweaving of snowy arms and legs. It held the men
"They're like goldfish in a bowl," Billy Fairfax said. "I never saw such
suppleness. You wouldn't think they had a bone in their systems."
"I bet they're as strong as tigers, though," commented Addington. "I
wouldn't want to handle more than one of them at once."
"I think I could handle two," remarked Frank Merrill. He said this, not
boastfully, but as one who states an interesting fact. And he spoke as
impersonally as though the girls were machines.
Ralph Addington studied Frank Merrill's gigantic copper-colored bulk
enviously. "I guess you could," he agreed.
"Fortunately," Frank went on, "it would be impossible for such a
situation to arise. Men don't war on women."
"On the contrary," Ralph disagreed, "men always war on women, and women
on men. Why, Merrill," he added with his inevitable tone of patronage,
"aren't you wise to the fact that the war between the sexes is in
reality more bitter and bloody than any war between the races?"
But Frank did not answer. He only stared.
"Did you notice," Pete Murphy asked, "what wonderful hair they had?
Loose like that - they looked more than ever like Valkyries."
"Yes, I got that," Ralph answered. He smiled until all his white teeth
showed. "And take it from me, that's a point gained. When a woman begins
to let her hair down, she's interested."
"Well," said Honey Smith, "their game may be the same as every other
woman's you've known, but it takes a damned long time to come down to
cases. What I want to know is how many months more will have to pass
before we speak when we pass by."
"That matter'll take care of itself," Ralph reassured him. "You leave it
to natural selection."
"Well, it's a deuce of a slow process," Honey grumbled.
What hitherto had been devotion to their work grew almost to mania. It
increased their interest that the little settlement of five cabins was
fast taking shape. The men slept in beds now; for they had furnished
their rooms. They had begun to decorate the walls. They re-opened the
trunks and made another careful division of spoils. They were even
experimenting with razors and quarreling amicably over their merits. At
night, when their work was done, they actually changed their clothes.
"One week more of this," commented Honey Smith, "and we'll be serving
meals in courses. I hope that our lady-friends will call sometime when
we're dressed for dinner. I've tried several flossy effects in ties
without results. But I expect to lay them out cold with these
Nevertheless many days passed and the flying-girls continued not to
"I don't believe they're ever coming again," Pete Murphy said one day in
a tone of despair.
"Oh, they'll come," Ralph Addington insisted. "They think themselves
that they're not coming again, after having proved to us that they could
fly just as well as ever. But they'll appear sometime when we least
expect it. There's something pulling them over here that's stronger than
anything they've ever come up against. They don't know what it is, but
we do - Mr. G. Bernard Shaw's life-force. They haven't realized yet what
put the spoke in their wheel, but it will bring them here in the end."
But days and days went by. The men worked hard, in the main
good-naturedly, but with occasional outbreaks of discontent and
irritation. "How about that proposition of the life-force?" they asked
Ralph Addington again and again. "You wait!" was all he ever answered.
One day, Honey Smith, who had gone off for a solitary walk, came running
back to camp. "What do you think?" he burst out when he got within
earshot. "I've seen one of them, the little brunette, the one with the
orange wings, the 'plain one.' She was flying on the other side of the
island all by her lonesome. She saw me first, and as sure as I stand
here, she called to me - a regular bird-call. I whistled and she came
flying over in my direction. Blamed if she didn't keep right over my
head for the whole trip."
"Low?" Ralph questioned eagerly.
"Yes," Honey answered succinctly, "but not low enough. I couldn't touch
her, of course. If I stopped for a while and kept quiet as the dead,
she'd come much closer. But the instant I made a move towards - bing! -
she hit the welkin. But the way she rubbered. And, Lord, how easy
scared. Once I waved my handkerchief - she nearly threw a fit. Strangest
sensation I've ever had in my life to be walking calmly along like that
with a girl beside me - flying. She isn't so plain when you get close -
she does look like a Kanaka, though." He stopped and burst out laughing.
"Funny thing! I kept calling her Lulu. After a while, she got it that
that was her tag. She didn't exactly come closer when I said 'Lulu,' but
she'd turn her head over her shoulder and look at me."
"Well, damn you and your beaux yeux!" said Ralph. There was a real
chagrin behind the amusement in his voice.
"Did you notice the muscular development of her back and shoulders?"
Frank Merrill asked eagerly.
"No," said Honey regretfully, "I don't seem to remember anything but her
The next morning when they were working, Pete Murphy suddenly yelled in
an excited voice, "Here comes one of them!"
Everybody turned. There, heading straight towards them, an unbelievable
orange patch sailing through the blue sky, flew the "plain one."
"Lulu! Lulu! Here I am, Lulu," Honey called in his most coaxing tone and
with his most radiant smile. Lulu did not descend, but, involuntarily it
seemed, she turned her course a little nearer to Honey. She fluttered an
instant over his head, then flew straight as an arrow eastward.
"She's a looker, all right, all right," Ralph Addington said, gazing as
long as she was in sight. "I guess I'll trade my blonde for your
"I bet you won't," answered Honey. "I've got Lulu half-tamed. She'll be
eating out of my hand in another week."
They found this incident exciting enough to justify them in laying off
from work the rest of the afternoon. But they had to get accustomed to
it in the week that followed. Thereafter, some time during the day, the
cry would ring out, "Here's your girl, Honey!" And Honey, not even
dropping his tools, would smile over his shoulder at the approaching
As time went by, she ventured nearer and nearer, stayed longer and
longer. Honey, calmly driving nails, addressed to her an endless,
chaffing monologue. At first, it was apparent she was as much repelled
by the tools as she was fascinated by Honey. For him to throw a nail to
the ground was the signal for her to speed to the zenith. But gradually,
in spite of the noise they made, she came to accept them as dumb,
inanimate, harmless. And one day, when Honey, working on the roof,
dropped a screw-driver, she flew down, picked it up, flew back, and
placed it within reach of his hand. She would hover over him for hours,
helping in many small ways. This only, however, when the other men were
sufficiently far away and only when Honey's two hands were occupied. If
any one of them - Honey and the rest - made the most casual of
accidental moves in her direction, her flight was that of an arrow. But
nobody could have been more careful than they not to frighten her.
They always stopped, however, to watch her approach and her departure.
There was something irresistibly feminine about Lulu's flight. She
herself seemed to appreciate this. If anybody looked at her, she
exhibited her accomplishments with an eagerness that had a charming
touch of naivete. She dipped and dove endlessly. She dealt in little
darts and rushes, bird-like in their speed and grace. She never flew
high, but, on her level, her activity was marvelous.
"The supermanning little imp!" Pete Murphy said again and again. "The
vain little devil," Ralph Addington would add, chuckling.
"How the thunder did we ever start to call her the 'plain one'?" Honey
was always asking in an injured tone.
Lulu was far from plain. She was, however, one of those girls who start
by being "ugly" or "queer-looking," or downright "homely," and end by
becoming "interesting" or "picturesque" or "fascinating," according to
the divagations of the individual vocabulary. She had the beaute
troublante. At first sight, you might have called her gipsy, Indian,
Kanaka, Chinese, Japanese, Korean - any exotic type that you had not
seen. Which is to say that she had the look of the primitive woman and
the foreign woman. Superficially, her beauty of irregularity was of all
beauty the most perturbing and provocative. Eyes, skin, hair, she was
all copper-browns and crimson-bronzes, all the high gloss of satiny
surfaces. Every shape and contour was a variant from the regular. Her
eyes took a bewildering slant. Her face showed a little piquant stress
on the cheekbones. Her hair banded in a long, solid, club-like braid. In
repose she bore a look a little sullen, a little heavy. When she smiled,
it seemed as if her whole face waked up; but it was only the glitter of
white teeth in the slit of her scarlet mouth.
Lulu always dressed in browns and greens; leaves, mosses, grasses made a
dim-colored, velvety fabric that contrasted richly with her coppery
satin surfaces and her brilliant orange wings.