Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Angel Island by Inez Haynes Gillmore

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Do you remember that awful day at the Clubhouse, how Chiquita,
comforted us? I - I failed you then; I fainted; I felt myself to blame
for your betrayal. But Chiquita kept saying, 'Don't be afraid. They
won't hurt us. We are precious to them. They would rather die than lose
us. They need us more than we need them. They are bound to us by a chain
that they cannot break.' And for a long time that seemed true. What we
had to learn was that we needed them just as much as they needed us,
that we were bound to them by a chain that we could not break.

"I often think" - Julia's voice had become dreamy - " now when it is so
different, of those first few months after the capture. How kind they
were to us, how gentle, how considerate, how delicate, how chivalrous!
Do you remember that they treated us as if we were children, how, for a
long time, they pretended to believe in fairies? Do you remember the
long fairy-hunts in the moonlit jungle, the long mermaid-hunts in the
moonlit ocean? Do you remember the fairy-tales by the fire? It seemed to
me then that life was one long fairy-tale. And how quickly we learned
their language! Has it ever occurred to you that no one of them has ever
bothered to learn ours - none except Frank, and he only because he was
mentally curious? Then came the long wooing. How we argued the marriage
question - discussed and debated - each knowing that the Great Doom was
on her and could not be gain-said.

"Then came the betrothal, the marriages, and suddenly all that wonderful
starlight and firelight life ended. For a while, the men seemed to drift
away from each other. For a while, we - the 'devoted five,' as our
people called us - seemed to drift away from each other. It was as
though they took back something they had freely given each other to give
to us. It was as though we took back something we had freely given each
other to give to them.

"Then, just as suddenly, they began to drift away from us and back to
each other. Some of the high, worshiping quality in their attitude
toward us disappeared. It was as though we had become less beautiful,
less interesting, less desirable - as if possession had killed some
precious, perishable quality."

"What that quality is I do not know. We are not dumb like stones or
plants, we women. We are not dull like birds or beasts. We do not fade
in a day like flowers. We do not stop like music. We do not go out like
light. What it was that went, or when or how, I do not know. But it was
something that thrilled and enchanted them. It went - and it went
forever."

"It was as though we were toys - new toys - with a secret spring. And if
one found and pressed that spring, something unexpected and something
unbelievably wonderful would happen. They hunted for that spring
untiringly - hunted - and hunted - and hunted. At last they found it.
And after they found it, we no longer interested them. The mystery and
fascination had gone. After all, a toy is only a toy."

"Then came our great trouble - that terrible time of the illicit
hunting. Every man of them making love to some one of you. Every woman
of you making love to some one of them. That was a year of despair for
me. I could see no way out. It seemed to me that you were all drifting
to destruction and that I could not stay you. And then I began to
realize that the root of evil was only one thing idleness. Idle men!
Idle women! And as I wondered what we should do next, Nature took the
matter in her hands. She gave all you women work to do."

Julia paused. Her still gray eyes fixed on faraway things.

"Honey-Boy was born, then Peterkin, then Angela, then Honey-Bunch. And
suddenly everything was right again. But, somehow, the men seemed soon
to exhaust the mystery and fascination of fatherhood just as they had
exhausted the mystery and fascination of husbandhood. They became
restless and irritable. It seemed to me that another danger beset us -
vague, monstrous, looming - but I did not know what. You see they have
the souls of discoverers and explorers and conquerors, these earth-men.
They are creators. Their souls are filled with an eternal unrest. Always
they must attempt one thing more; ever they seek something beyond. They
would stop the sun and the moon in their courses; they would harness the
hurricane; they would chain the everlasting stars. Sea, earth, sky are
but their playgrounds; past, present, future their servants; they lust
to conquer the unexplored areas of space and time. It came to me that
what they needed was work of another kind. One night, when I was lying
awake thinking it over, the idea of the New Camp burst on my mind. Do
you remember how delighted they were when I suggested it to them, how
delighted you were, how gay and jubilant we all were, how, for days and
days, we talked of nothing else? And we were as happy over the idea as
they. For a long time, we thought that we were going to help.

"We thought that we were going with them every day, not to work but to
sit in the nearby shade, to encourage them with our praise and
appreciation. And we did go for a month. But they had to carry us all
the way - or nearly carry us. Think of that - supporting a full-grown
woman all that weary road. I saw the feeling begin to grow in them that
we were burdens. I watched it develop. Understand me, a beautiful
burden, a beloved burden, but still a burden, a burden that it would be
good to slip off the back for the hours of the working day. I could not
blame them. For we were burdens. Then, under one pretext or another,
they began to suggest to us not to go daily to the New Camp with them.
The sun was too hot; we might fall; insects would sting us; the sudden
showers were too violent. Finally, that if we did not watch the New Camp
grow, it would be a glorious surprise to us when it was finished.

"At first, you were all touched and delighted with their gallantry - but
I - I knew what it meant."

"I tried to stem the torrent of their strange, absorption, but I could
not. It grew and grew. And now you see what has happened. It has been
months since one of us has been to the New Camp and all of you, except
Peachy and myself, have entirely lost interest in it. It is not
surprising. It is natural. I, too, would lose interest if I did not
force myself to talk with Billy about it every night of my life. Lulu
said yesterday that it seemed strange to her that, after working
together all day, they should want to get together in the Clubhouse at
night. For a long time that seemed strange to me - until I discovered
that there is a chain binding them to each other even as there is a
chain binding them to us. And the Bond of Work is stronger than the Bond
of Sex because Work is a living, growing thing."

"In the meantime, we have our work too - the five children. But it is a
little constructive work - not a great one. For in this beautiful, safe
island, there is not much that we can do besides feed them. And so, here
we sit day after day, five women who could once fly, big, strong,
full-bodied, teeming with various efficiencies and abilities - wasted.
If we had kept our wings, we could have been of incalculable assistance
to them. Or if we could walk - ."

"But I won't go further into our situation. I want to consider
Angela's."

"You are wondering what all this has to do with the matter of Angela's
flying. And now I am going to tell you. Don't you see if they wait until
she is a woman before they cut her wings, she will be in the same case
that we are in, unable either to fly or to walk. Rather would I myself
cut her wings to-night and force her to walk. But on the other hand,
should she grow to womanhood with wings, she would be no true mate to a
wingless man unless she could also walk. No, we must see to it that she
both flies and walks. In that case, she will be a perfect mate to the
wingless man. Her strength will not be as great as his - but her
facility will be greater. She will walk well enough to keep by his side;
and her flying will supplement his powers."

"And then - oh, don't you see it - don't you see why we must fight -
fight - fight for Angela, don't you see why her wings are a sacred trust
with us? Sometime, there will be born here - - Clara," she turned her
look on Clara's excited face, "it may be the baby that's coming to you
in the spring - sometime there will be born here a boy with wings. Then
more and more often they will come until there are as many winged men as
winged women. What will become of our girl-children then if their mates
fly as well as walk away from them. There is only one way out. And there
is only one duty before us - to learn to walk that we may teach our
daughters to walk - to preserve our daughter's wings that they may teach
their sons to fly."

"But, Julia," Peachy exclaimed, after an instant of dead silence. There
was a stir of wonder, flutelike in her voice, a ripple of wonder,
flamelike on her face. "Our feet are too fine, too soft. Ralph says that
mine are only toy feet, that no creature could really get along on
them."

She kicked the loose sandals off. Tiny, slim, delicately chiseled, her
feet were of a china whiteness, except where, at the tips, the toes
showed a rose-flush or where, over the instep, the veins meandered in a
blue network.

"Of course Peachy's feet are smaller than mine," Lulu said wistfully.
"But even my workaday little pads wouldn't carry me many steps." From
under her skirts appeared a pair of capable-looking, brown feet, square,
broad but little and satin-smooth.

"Mine are quite useless," Chiquita sighed. "Oh, why did I let myself
grow so big?" There was a note of despair in her velvet voice. "It's
almost as if there were no muscles in them." She pulled aside her
scarlet draperies. In spite of her increasing size, her dusky feet had
kept their aristocratic Andalusian lines.

"And I've always done just the things that would make it impossible for
me to walk," said Clara in a discouraged tone. "I've always taken as
much care of my feet as my hands - they're like glass." This was true.
In the pale-gold of her skin, the pink nails glittered brilliantly.

"And think of your own feet, Julia," Lulu exclaimed. "They're like
alabaster. Pete says that from the artist's point of view, they're
absolutely perfect. You don't imagine for an instant that you could take
a step on them, unsupported?"

"No?" said Julia. "No?" With a swift leap of her body, she stood on the
feet in question. And as the other stared, stupefied, she walked with
the splendid, swinging gait of an Amazon once, twice, thrice around the
Playground.

"Come, Angela!" Peachy called. "Come, baby!"

Angela started to spread her pinions. "Don't fly, baby," Peachy called.
"Walk!"

Obediently, Angela dropped her wings, sank. Her feet, shell-like,
pinky-soft, padded the ground. She tried to balance, but she swayed and
fell.

"No matter, darling!" Peachy called cheerily, "Try again!"

Angela heroically pulled herself up. She made a few uncertain steps, but
she stumbled with every move.

Honey-Boy and Peterkin came running up to her side; Junior, grinning
happily, waddled behind a long way in the rear. "Angela's trying to
walk!" the boys cried. "Angela's trying to walk!" They capered with
amusement. "Oh, isn't she funny? Look at the girl trying to walk!"

The tears spurted from Angela's eyes. Her lips quivered. Her wings shot
up straight.

"Don't mind what the boys say, Angela!" Peachy called. "Put your wings
down! Keep right on walking!"

Again Angela's pinions dropped. Again she took a few steps. This time
she fell to her knees. But she pulled herself up, sped onward, fell
again, and again. She had reached the stones that bounded the sand. When
she arose this last time, her foot was, bleeding.

"Keep on walking, baby!" Peachy commanded inflexibly. But there was a
rain of tears on her check.

Angela staggered forward a rod or two; and now both feet left a trail of
blood. Then suddenly again she struggled for balance, fell headlong.

"Keep on walking, mother's heart's treasure," Peachy commanded. She
dropped to her knees and held out her arms; her face worked
uncontrollably.

Angela pulled herself up with a determined settling of her little
rose-petal mouth. Swaying, stumbling, staggering, she ran on in one
final spurt until she collapsed in her mother's arms.

VIII

"And as soon as we finish the New Camp," Honey said eagerly, "we must
make another on the rocks at the north. That will be our summer place."

"And as soon as we've finished that, let's build a house-boat for the
lake," Billy suggested.

"Then let's put up some hunting-boxes at the south," Ralph took it up.

"There's a good year's work on the New Camp," Frank reminded them.

"But after the New Camp and the Hunting-Boxes and the House-Boat -
what?" Ralph asked a little drearily.

"Plenty to do," Billy promised cheerily. "I've been working on a plan to
lay out the entire island in camps and parks. Pete, I want to bring them
over to you some night."

"Come to-night," Pete said eagerly.

"Why not bring them to the Clubhouse," Honey asked. "I'd like to see
them, too. While I'm working with my hands on one job, I like to be
working with my head on the next."

"Sure," agreed Ralph, "I'm for that. I'll join you to-night. Can you
come, Frank?"

"I had meant to write to-night," Frank said. "But of course I can put
that off."

"Has it ever occurred to you fellows," Billy asked, "that just as soon
as the boys are big enough for us to leave the women in their care, we
can build a boat and visit the other four islands?"

"Gee!" Honey said. "Now you're shouting. I never thought of that. Lord,
how I would like to get away from this place for a while. Being shut in
in any way always gets on my nerves."

Ralph drew a long breath. "I never thought of it," he admitted. "But it
gives me a new lease of life."

"I shall feel like Columbus," Pete acknowledged, "and then some. Why
it's like visiting the moon - or Mars. And God knows we'll need an other
island or two in our business - provided we stay here for two or three
generations more. We'll be a densely populated world-center before we
know it."

"I was thinking," Billy suddenly relapsed to the previous subject. "How
about the women tonight? They always hate to have us leave them when
we've been away all day, - and we've been here two days, remember."

"Oh, that's all right," Honey answered. "I'm sure Lulu'll be all right.
There's been the greatest change in her in the last few months."

"Peachy won't mind," said Ralph. "She told me the other night to go to
the Clubhouse as often as I wanted and stay as late."

"Clara says practically the same." Pete wrinkled his forehead in
perplexity. "It took my breath away. How do you account for it?"

"Oh, that's all right," Honey answered. stopping to dash the sweat from
his forehead, "I should say it was just a matter of their getting over
their foolishness. I suppose all young married women have it - that
instinct to monopolize their husbands. And when you think it over, we do
sort of give them the impression while we're courting them that they are
the whole cheese. But that isn't all. They've come to their senses on
some other matters. I think, for instance, they're beginning to get our
point of view on this flying proposition. Lulu hasn't hinted that she'd
like to fly for three months. She's never been so contented since, we
captured them. To do her justice, though, she always saw, when I pointed
it out to her, that flying was foolish, besides being dangerous."

"Well," Ralph said, "what between holding them down from the clouds and
keeping them away from the, New Camp, managing them has been some job.
But I guess you're right, Honey. I think they're reconciled now to their
lot. If I do say it as shouldn't, Peachy seems like a regular woman
nowadays. She's braced up in fine style in the last two months. Her
color is much better; her spirits are high. When I get home at night,
she doesn't want to go out at all. If I say that I'm going to the
Clubhouse, she never raises a yip. In fact, she seems too tired to care.
She's always ready now to turn in when I do. For months and months, you
know, she sat up reading until all hours of the night and morning. But
now she falls asleep like a child."

"Then she's gotten over that insomnia?" Pete asked this casually and he
did not look at Ralph.

"Entirely," Ralph replied briefly, and in his turn he did not look at
Pete. "She's a perfectly healthy woman now. She gets her three squares
every day and her twelve hours every night - regular. I never saw such
an improvement in a woman."

"Well, when it comes to sleeping," Pete said, "I don't believe she's got
anything on Clara. I often find her dead to the world when I get home at
night. I jolly her about that - for she has always thought going to bed
early indicated lack of temperament. And as for teasing to be allowed to
fly, or to be taken out swimming, or to call on any of you, or to let
her tag me here - why, that's all stopped short. She keeps dozing off
all the evening. Sometimes in the midst of a sentence, she'll begin to
nod. Never saw her looking so well, though."

"Chiquita, on the contrary, isn't sleeping as much as she did," Frank
said. "She's more active, though - physically, I mean. She's rejoicing
at present over the fact that she's lost twenty-five, pounds in the last
three months. She said last night that she hadn't been so slim since she
was a girl."

"Twenty-five pounds!" exclaimed Honey. "That's a good deal to lose. How
the hell - how do you explain it!"

"Increased household activity," Frank replied vaguely. "And then
mentally, I think she's more vigorous. She's been reading a great deal
by herself. Formerly I found that reading annoyed her - even when I read
aloud, explaining carefully as I went along."

"I haven't noticed an increased activity on Julia's part," Billy said
thoughtfully. "But she's always been extraordinarily active, considering
everything. The way she gets about is marvelous. But of course she's
planned the placing of her furniture with that in view. She's as quick
as a cat. I have noticed, however, that she seems much happier. They
certainly are a changed lot of women."

"The twelve o'clock whistle has just blown," Honey announced. "Let's
eat."

The five men dropped their tools. They gathered their lunches together
and fell to a voracious feeding. At last, pipes appeared. They stretched
themselves to the smoker's ease. For a while, the silence was unbroken.
Then, here and there, somebody dropped an irrelevant remark. Nobody
answered it.

They lay in one corner of the big space which had been cleared from the
jungle chaos. On one side rippled the blue lake carving into many tiny
bays and inlets and padded with great green oases of matted lily-leaves.
On the other side rose the highest hill on the island. The cleared land
stretched to the very summit of this hill. Over it lay another chaos,
the chaos of confusion; half-completed buildings of log and stone,
rectangles and squares of dug-up land where buildings would some day
stand, half-finished roadways, ditches of muddy water, hills of round
beach-stones, piles of logs, some stripped of the bark, others still
trailing a green huddle of leaf and branch, tools everywhere. The jungle
rolled like, a tidal wave to the very boundary; in places its green
spume had fallen over the border. As the men smoked, their eyes went
back to the New Camp again and again. It was obvious that constantly
they made mental measurements, that ever in their mind's eye they saw
the completed thing.

"Well," said Ralph, reverting without warning to the subject under
discussion. His manner tacitly assumed that the others had also been
considering it mentally. "I confess I don't understand women really.
I've always thought that I did. But I see now that I never have."
Addington's rare outbursts of frankness in regard to the other sex were
the more startling because they contrasted so sharply with his normal
attitude of lordly understanding and contempt. "I've been a good manager
and I'm not saying that I haven't had my successes with them. But as I
look back upon them now, I realize I followed my intuitions, not my
reason. I've done what I've done without knowing why. I have to feel my
way still. I can't account for the change that's come over them. For
four years now they've been at us to let their wings grow again. And for
four years we've been saying no in every possible tone of voice and with
every possible inflection. I've had no idea that Peachy would ever get
over it. My God, you fellows have no idea what I've been through with
her in regard to this question of flying. Why, one night three months
ago, she had an awful attack of hysteria because I told her I'd have to
cut Angela's wings as soon as she was grown-up."

"Well, what did she expect?" Honey asked.

"That I'd let her keep them - that I'd let her fly the way Peachy did!
Or - what do you suppose she suggested? - that I cut them off now."

"Well, what was her idea in that?" Billy's tone was the acme of
perplexity.

"That as long as I wouldn't let her keep them after she had attained her
growth, she might as well not have them at all."

Billy laughed. "That's a woman's reasoning all right, all right. Why, it
would destroy half Angela's charm in my eyes. That little fluttering
flight of hers, half on the ground, half in the air, is so lovely, so
engaging, so endearing - - . But of course letting her fly high would be
- ."

"Absurd," Ralph interrupted.

"Dangerous," Honey interpolated.

"Unwomanly," Pete added.

"Immodest," Billy concluded.

"Well, thank God it's all over," Ralph went on. "But, as I say, I give
up guessing what's changed her, unless it's the principle that constant
dropping wears away the stone. Oscar Wilde had the answer. They're
sphinxes without secrets. They do anything that occurs to them and for
no particular reason. I get along with, them only by laying down the law
and holding them to it. And I reckon they've got that idea firmly fixed
in their minds now - that they're to stay where we put them."

Honey wriggled as if in discomfort. "Seems to me, Ralph, you take a
pretty cold-blooded view of the situation. I guess I don't go very far
with you. Not that I pretend to understand women. I don't. My system
with them is to give them anything they ask, within reason, of course,
to keep them busy and happy, buy them presents, soft-soap them, jolly
them along. I suppose that personally, I wouldn't have minded their
flying a little every afternoon, as long as they took the proper care. I
mean by that, not to fly too far out to sea or too high in the air and
never when we were at home, so long, in short, as they followed the
rules that we laid down for them. You fellows seem to have the idea if
we let them do that we'd lose them. But if there's one general
proposition fixed more firmly in my nut than any other, it is that you
can't lose them. But of course I intend always to stand by whatever
you-all say."

"I don't know," Billy burst in hotly, "which of you two makes me sickest
and which is the most insulting in his attitude towards women, you,
Ralph, who treat them as if they were household pets, or you, Honey, who
treat them as if they were dolls. In my opinion there is only one law to
govern a man's relation with a woman - the law of chivalry. To love her,
and cherish her, to do all the hard work of the world for her, to stand
between her and everything that is unbeautiful and unpleasant, to think
for her, to put her on a pedestal and worship her; to my mind that sums
up the whole duty of man to woman."

"They're better than goddesses on pedestals," Pete said. "They're
creatures neither of flesh nor of marble - they're ideals. They're made
of stars, sunlight, moonshine. I believe in treating them like beings of
a higher world."

"I disagree with all of you," Frank said ponderously, "I don't believe
in treating them as if they were pets or dolls, or goddesses on
pedestals or ideals. I believe in treating them like human beings, the
other half of the race. I don't see that they are any better or any
worse than we - they're about the same. Soon after we captured them, you
remember, we entered into an agreement that no one of us would ever let
his wife's wings grow without the consent of all the others. One minute
after I had given my word, I was sorry for it. But you kept your word to
me in the agreement that I forced on you before the capture; and, so, I
shall always keep mine to you. But I regret it more and more as time
goes on. You see I'm so constituted that I can't see anything but
abstract justice. And according to abstract justice we have no right to
hold these women bound to the earth. If the air is their natural
habitat, it is criminal for us to keep them out of it. They're our
equals in every sense - I mean in that they supplement us, as we
supplement them. They've got what we haven't got and we've got what they
haven't got. They can't walk, but they can fly. We can't fly, but we can
walk. It is as though they compelled us, creatures of the earth, to live
in the air all the time. Oh, it's wrong. You'll see it some day."

"I never listened to such sophistry in my life," said Ralph in disgust.
You'll be telling us next," he added sarcastically, that we hadn't any
right to capture them."

"We hadn't," Frank replied promptly. "On reflection, I consider that the
second greatest crime of my existence. But that's done and can't be
wiped out. They own this island just as much as we do. They'd been
coming to it for months before we saw it. They ought to have every kind
of right and freedom and privilege on it that we, have."

"I'd like to hear," Addington said in the high, thin tone of his peevish
disgust, "the evidence that justifies you in saying that. What have they
ever done on this island to put them on an equality with us? Aren't they
our inferiors from every point of view, especially physically?"

"Certainly they are," agreed Honey, not peevishly but as one who
indorses, unnecessarily, a self-evident fact. "They've lived here on
Angel Island as long as we have. But they haven't made good yet, and we
have. Why, just imagine them working on the New Camp - playing tennis,
even."

"But we prevented all that," Frank protested. "We cut their wings.
Handicapped as they were by their small feet, they could do nothing."

"But," Honey ejaculated, "if they'd been our physical equals, they would
never have let us cut their wings."

"But we caught them with a trick," Frank said, "we put them in a
position in which they could not use their physical strength."

"Well, if they'd been our mental equals, they'd never let themselves get
caught like that."

"Well - but - but - but - " Frank sputtered. "Now you're arguing
crazily. You're going round in a circle."

"Oh, well," Honey exclaimed impatiently, let's not argue any more. You
always go round in a circle. I hate argument. It never changes, anybody.
You never hear what the other fellow says. You always come out of it
with your convictions strengthened."

Frank made a gesture of despair. He drew a little book from his pocket
and began to read.

"There's one thing about them that certainly is to laugh," Honey said
after a silence, a glint of amusement in his big eyes, "and that is the
care they take of those useless feet of theirs. Lulu's even taken to
doing hers up every night in oil or cream. It's their particular vanity.
Now, take that, for instance. Men never have those petty vanities. I
mean real men - regular fellows."

"How about the western cowboy and his fancy boots?" Frank shot back over
his book.

"Oh, that's different," Ralph said. "Honey's right. That business of
taking care of their feet symbolizes the whole sex to me. They do the
things they do just because the others do them - like sheep jumping over
a wall. Their fad at present is pedicure. Peachy's at it just like the
rest of them. Every night when I come home, I find her sitting down with
both feet done up in one of those beautiful scarfs she's collected,
resting on a cushion. It's rather amusing, though." Ralph struggled to
suppress his smile of appreciation.

"Clara's the same." Pete smiled too. "She's cut herself out some high
sandals from a pair of my old boots. And she wears them day and night.
She says she's been careless lately about getting her feet sunburned.
And she's not going to let me see them until they're perfectly white and
transparent again. She says that small, beautiful, and useless feet were
one of the points of beauty with her people."

"Julia's got the bug, too." Billy's eyes lighted with a gleam of
tenderness. "Among the things she found in the trunk was a box of white
silk stockings and some moccasins. She's taken to wearing them lately.
It always puts a crimp in me to get a glimpse of them - as if she'd
suddenly become a normal, civilized woman."

"Now that I think of it," Frank again came out of his book. "Chiquita
asked me a little while ago for a pair of shoes. She's wearing them all
the time now to protect her feet - from the sun she says."

"It is the most curious thing," Billy said, "that they have never wanted
to walk. Not that I want them to now," he added hastily. "That's their
greatest charm in my eyes - their helplessness. It has a curious appeal.
But it is singular that they never even tried it, if only out of
curiosity."

"They have great contempt for walking," Honey observed. "And it has
never occurred to them, apparently, that they could enjoy themselves so
much more if they could only get about freely. Not that I want them to -
any more than you. That utter helplessness is, as you say, appealing."

"Oh, well," Ralph said contemptuously, "what can you expect of them? I
tell you it's lack of gray matter. They don't cerebrate. They don't
co-ordinate. They don't correlate. They have no initiative, no creative
faculty, no mental curiosity or reflexes or reactions. They're nothing
but an unrelated bunch of instincts, intuitions, and impulses - human
nonsense machines! Why if the positions were reversed and we'd lost our
wings, we'd have been trying to walk the first day. We'd have been
walking better than they by the end of a month."

"I like it just as it is," Pete said contentedly. "They can't fly and
they don't want to walk. We always know where to find them."

"Thank God we don't have to consider that matter," Billy concluded.
Apparently the walking impulse isn't in them. They might some time, by
hook or crook, wheedle us into letting them fly a little. But one thing
is certain, they'll never take a step on those useless feet."

"Delicate, adorable, useless little feet of theirs," Pete said softly as
if he were reciting from an ode.

"There's something moving along the trail, boys," Frank said quietly. "I
keep getting glimpses of it through the bushes - white - blue - red and
yellow."

The others stopped, petrified. They scowled, bending an intent gaze
through the brilliant noon sunshine.

"Sure I get it!" Billy answered in a low tone. "There's something
there."

"I don't." Honey shaded his eyes.

"Nor I." Pete squinted.

"Well, I don't see anything," Ralph said impatiently. "But providing you
fellows aren't nuts, what the devil can it be?"

"It's - " Billy began. Then, "My God!" he ended.

Something white glimmered at the end of the trail. It grew larger,
bulked definitely, filled the opening.

"Julia!" Billy gasped.

"And she's - she's - ." Honey could not seem to go on.

"Walking," Billy concluded for him.

"And Peachy!" Ralph exclaimed.

"And why - and - and - - ." It was Pete who stopped for breath this time.

"And she's walking!" Ralph concluded for himself.

"And Clara! And Lulu! And Chiquita!" they greeted each one of the women
as fast as they appeared. And in between them came again and again their
astonished "And walking!"

The five women were walking, and walking with no appearance of effort,
swiftly, lightly, joyously. Julia, at the head, moved with the frank,
free, swinging gait of an Amazon. Peachy seemed to flit along the
ground; there was in her progress something of the dipping, curving
grace of her flight. Clara glided; her effect of motionless movement was
almost obsidian. Chiquita kept the slow, languid gait, both swaying and
pulsating, of a Spanish woman. Lulu trotted with the brisk, pleasing
activity of a Morgan pony.

Their skirts had been shortened; they rippled away from slim ankles. The
swathing, wing-like draperies had disappeared; their slit sleeves
fluttered away from bare shoulders. The women did not pause. They came
on steadily, their eyes fixed on the group of men.

The faces in that group had changed in expression. Ralph's became black
and lowering. Honey looked surprised but interested; his color did not
vary; Billy turned a deep brick-red. Pete went white. Frank Merrill
alone studied the phenomenon with the cool, critical eye of scientific
observation.

The women paused at a little distance where the path dipped to coil
around a little knoll. They abandoned the path to climb this knoll; they
climbed it with surprising ease; they almost flew up the sides. They
stood there silently grouped about Julia. For an instant the two parties
gazed at each other.

Then, "What does this mean, Peachy?" Ralph asked sternly.

Julia answered for Peachy.

"It means - rebellion," she said. " It means that we have decided among
ourselves that we will not permit you to cut Angela's wings. It means
that rather than have you do that, we will leave you, taking our
children with us. If you will promise us that you will not cut Angela's
wings nor the wings of any child born to us, we in our turn will promise
to return to our homes and take our lives up with you just where we left
off."

A confused murmur arose from the men. Ralph leaped to his feet. He made
a movement in the direction of the women, involuntary but violent.

The women shrank closer to Julia. They turned white, but they waited.
Julia did not stir.

"Go home, you - " Ralph stopped abruptly and choked something back.

"Go at once!" Billy added sternly.

"I'm ashamed of you, Clara," Pete said.

"Better go back, girls," Honey advised. He tried to make his tone
authoritative. But in spite of himself, there lingered a little pleading
in it. To make up, he unmasked the full battery of his coaxing smile,
his quizzical frown, his snapping dimples. "We can't let Angela fly
after she's grown up. It isn't natural. It isn't what a woman should be
doing."

Frank said nothing.

Julia looked at them steadily an instant.

"Come!" she said briefly to her little band. The women ran down the
knoll and disappeared up the trail.

"Well, I'll be damned," Ralph remarked.

"Well, when you come to that, I'll be damned," Honey coincided.

"Who was it said that God did not intend them to walk?" Frank asked
slyly.

"So that's what all this bandaging of feet meant," Billy went on,
ignoring this thrust. "They were learning to walk all the time."

"You're on," Ralph said in a disgusted tone. "Foxy little devils!"

"Gee, it must have hurt!" Honey exclaimed. "They must have been torn to
ribbons at first. Some pluck, believe me!"

"I bet you dollars to doughnuts, Julia's at the bottom of it," remarked
Pete.

"No question about that," Frank commented. "Julia thinks."

"Considerable bean, too," said Honey. "Well, we've got to put a stop to
it to-night."

"Sure!" Ralph agreed. "Read the riot act the instant we get home. By the
Lord Harry, if it's necessary I'll tie my wife up!"

"I never could do that," said Pete.

"Nor I," said Frank.

"Nor I," said Honey. "But I don't think we'll have to resort to violent
measures. We've only got to appeal to their love; I can twist Lulu right
round my finger that way."

"I guess you're right," Ralph smiled. "That always fetches them."

"I don't anticipate any real trouble from this," Billy went on as though
arguing with himself. "We've got to take it at the start, though. We
can't have Angela flying after she's grown."

"Sure," said Honey, "it'll blow over in a few days. But now that they
can walk, let's offer to teach them how to dance and play tennis and
bocci and golf. And I'll tell you what - we'll lay out some gardens for
them - make them think they're beautifying the place. We might even
teach them how to put up shelves and a few little carpentering tricks
like that. That'll hold them for a while. Oh, you'll all come round to
my tactics sooner or later! Pay them compliments! Give them presents!
Jolly them along! And say, it will be fun to have some mixed doubles.
Gee, though, they'll be something fierce now they've learned how to
walk. They'll be here half the time. They'll have so many ideas how the
New Camp ought to be built and a woman is such an obstinate cuss. Asking
questions and arguing and interfering - they delay things so. We've got
to find out something harmless that'll keep them busy."

"Oh, we never can have them here - never in the world," Ralph agreed.
"But we'll fix them to-night. How about it, old top?" he inquired
jovially of Frank.

Frank did not answer.

In point of fact they did not "fix" the women that night, owing to the
simple reason that they found the camp deserted - not a sign of woman or
child in sight or hearing.

"Well, there's one thing about it," Ralph said on their way back to the
New Camp the next morning, "you can always beat any woman's game by just
ignoring it. They can stand anything but not being noticed. Now our play
is to do nothing and say nothing. They're on this island somewhere. They
can't walk off it, and they can't swim off it, and they can't fly off
it. They may stay away for day or more or possibly two. By the end of
week they'll certainly be starved out. And they'll be longing for our
society. We want to keep right at work as if nothing had happened. Let
them go and come as they please. But we take no notice - see! We've done
that once before and we can do it again. When they come home, they'll be
a pretty tired-out, hungry, discouraged gang of girls. I bet we never
hear another word out of them on this subject."

The men worked as usual the whole morning; but they talked less. They
were visibly preoccupied. At every pause, they glanced furtively up the
trail. When noon came, it was evident that they dropped their tools with
relief. They sat with their eyes glued to the path.

"Here they come!" Billy exclaimed at last.

The men did not speak; nor until they came to the little knoll that
debouched from the trail did the women. Again Julia acted as spokesman.
"We have given you a night to think this matter over," she said briefly.
"What is your decision? Shall Angela's wings go uncut?"

"No, by God! " burst out Ralph. "No daughter of mine is going to fly. If
you - ."

But with a silencing gesture, Billy interposed. "Aren't you women
happy?" he asked.

"Oh, no," Julia answered. "Of course we're not. I mean we have one kind
of happiness - the happiness that come's from being loved and having a
home and children. But there is another kind of happiness of which when
you cut our wings we were no longer capable - the happiness that comes
from a sense of absolute freedom. We can bear that for ourselves, but
not for our daughters. Angela and all the girl-children who follow her
must have the freedom that we have lost. Will you give it to them?"

"No!" Ralph yelled. And "Go home!" Honey said brutally.

The women turned.

A dead tree grew by the knoll, one slender limb stretching across its
top to the lake. Peachy ran nimbly along this limb until she came as
near to the tip as her weight would permit. She stood there an instant
balancing herself; then she walked swiftly back and forth. Finally she
jumped to the ground, landing squarely on her feet. She ran like a deer
to join the file of women.

Involuntarily the men applauded.

"Remember the time when they first came to the island," Ralph said, "how
she was proud like a lion because she managed to hold herself for an
instant on a tree-branch? Her wings were helping her then. Now it's a
real balancing act. Some stunt that! By Jove, she must have been
practising tightrope walking." In spite of his scowl, a certain
tenderness, half of past admiration, half of present pride, gleamed in
his eyes.

"You betchu they have. They've been practising running and jumping and
leaping and vaulting and God only knows what else. Well, we've only got
to keep this up two or three days longer and they'll come back." Honey
spoke in a tone which palpably he tried to make jaunty. In spite of
himself, there was a wavering note of uncertainty in it.

"Oh, we'll get them yet!" Ralph said. "How about it, old fellow?" Ralph
had never lost his old habit of turning to Frank in psychological
distress.

But Frank again kept silence.

"Betchu we find them at home to-night," Honey said as they started down
the trail an hour ahead of time. "Who'll take me. Come!"

No one took him, luckily for Honey. There was no sign of life that
night, nor the next, nor the next. And in the meantime, the women did
not manifest themselves once during the daytime at the New Camp.

"God, we've got to do something about this," Ralph said at the end of
five days. "This is getting serious. I want to see Angela. I hadn't any
idea I could miss her so much. It seems as if they'd been gone for a
month. They must have been preparing for this siege for weeks. Where the
thunder are they hiding - in the jungle somewhere, of course?"

"Oh, of course," Honey assented. "I miss the boys, too," he mourned, "I
used to have a frolic with them every morning before I left and every
night when I got home."

"And it's all so uncomfortable living alone," Ralph grumbled. He was
unshaven. The others showed in various aspects of untidiness the lack of
female standards.

"I'm so sick of my own cooking," Honey complained.

"Not so sick as we are," said Pete.

"Anybody can have my job that wants it," Honey volunteered with a touch
of surliness unusual with him.

At noon the five women appeared again at the end of the trail.

In contrast to the tired faces and dishevelled figures of the men, they
presented an exquisite feminine freshness, hair beautifully coiled,
garments spotless and unwrinkled. But although their eyes were like
stars and their cheeks like flowers, their faces were serious; a dew, as
of tears lately shed, lay over them.

"Shall Angela fly?"' Julia asked without parley.

The women turned.

"Wait a moment," Frank called in a sudden tone of authority. "I'm with
you women in this. If you'll let me join your forces, I'll fight on your
side."

He had half-covered the distance between them before Julia stopped him
with a "Wait a moment!" as decisive as his own.

"In the first place," she said, "we don't want your help. If we don't
get this by our own efforts, we'll never value it. In the second place,
we'll never be sure of it. We don't trust you - quite. You tricked us
once. That was your fault. If you trick us again, that's our fault.
Thank you - but no, Frank."

The women disappeared down the trail while still the men stood staring.

"Well, can you beat it?" was the only comment for a moment - and that
came from Pete. In another instant, they had turned on Merrill, were
upbraiding him hotly for what they called his treason.

"You can't bully me," was his unvarying answer. "Remember, any time they
call on me, I'll fight for them."

"Well, you can do what you want with your own wife, of course," Ralph
said, falling into one of his black rages. "But I'm damned if you'll
encourage mine."

"Boys," he added later, after a day of steadily increasing rage, "I'm
tired of this funny business. Let's knock off work to-morrow and hunt
them. What gets me is their simplicity. They don't seem to have
calculated on our superior strength. It won't take us more than a few
hours to run them to earth. By God, I wish we had a pair of
bloodhounds."

"All right," said Billy. "I'm with you, Ralph. I'm tired of this."

"Let's go, to bed early to-night," said Pete, and start at sunrise."

"Well," said Honey philosophically, "I've hunted deer, bear, panther,
buffalo, Rocky Mountain sheep, jaguar, lion, tiger, and rhinoceros - but
this is the first time I ever hunted women."

They started at sunrise - all except Frank, who refused to have anything
to do with the expedition - and they hunted all day. At sunset they
camped where they fell exhausted. They went back to the search the next
day and the next and the next and the next.

And nowhere did they find traces of their prey.

"Where are they? Ralph said again and again in a baffled tone. "They
couldn't have flown away, could they?"

And, as often as he asked this question, his companions answered it in
the varying tones of their fatigue and their despair. "Of course they
couldn't - their wings were too short."

"Still," Frank said once. "It's now long past the half-yearly shearing
period." He added in another instant, "I don't think, though, that their
wings could more than lift them."

"Well, it's evident, wherever they are, they won't budge until we go
back to work," Billy said at the end of a week. "This is useless and
hopeless."

The next day they returned to the New Camp.

"Here they come," Billy called joyously that noon. "Thank God!" he added
under his breath.

Again the five women appeared at the beginning of the trail. Their faces
were white now, hollow and lined; but as ever, they bore a look of
extraordinary pristineness. And this time they brought the children.
Angela lay in her mother's arms like a wilted flower. Her wings sagged
forlornly and her feet were bandaged. But stars of a brilliant blue
flared and died and flared again in her eyes; roses of a living flame
bloomed and faded and bloomed again in her cheek. Her look went straight
to her father's face, clung there in luminous entreaty. Peterkin, more
than ever like a stray from some unreal, pixy world, surveyed the scene
with his big, wondering, gray-green eyes. Honey-Boy, having apparently
just waked, stared, owl-like, his brows pursed in comic reproduction of
his father's expression. Junior grinned his widest grin and padded the
air unceasingly with his pudgy hands. Honey-Bunch slept placidly in
Julia's arms.

Julia advanced a little from her group and dropped a single
monosyllable. "Well?" she said in an inflexible, questioning voice.

Nobody answered her. Instead Addington called in a beseeching voice:
"Angela! Angela! Come to me! Come to dad, baby!"

Angela's dead little wings suddenly flared with life; they fluttered in
a very panic. She stretched out her arms to her father. She turned her
limpid gaze in an agony of infantile entreaty up to her mother's face.
But Peachy shook her head. The baby flutter died down. Angela closed her
eyes, dropped her head on her mother's shoulder; the tears started from
under her eyelids.

"Shall Angela fly?" Julia asked. "Remember this is your last chance."

"No," Ralph said. And the word was the growl of a balked beast.

"Then," Julia said sternly, "we will leave Angel Island forever."

"You will," Ralph sneered. "You will, will you? All right. Let's see you
do it!" Suddenly he started swiftly down toward the trail. Come, boys!"
he commanded. Honey followed - and Billy and Pete.

But, suddenly, Julia spoke. She spoke in the loud, clear tones of her
flying days and she used the language of her girlhood. It was a word of
command. And as it fell from her lips, the five women leaped from the
top of the knoll. But they did not fall into the lake. They did not
touch its surface. They flew. Flew - and yet it was not flight. It was
half-flight. It was scarcely flight at all. Compared with the
magnificent, calm, effortless sweep of their girlhood days, it was
almost a grotesque performance. Their wing-stumps beat back and forth
violently, beat in a very agony of effort. Indeed these stunted fans
could never have held them up. They supplemented their efforts by a
curious rotary movement of the legs and feet. They could not rise very
far above the surface of the water, especially as each woman was
weighted by a child; but they sustained a steady, level flight to the
other side of the lake.

The men stared for an instant, petrified. Then panic broke. "Come back,
Lulu!" Honey yelled. "Come back!" "Julia!" Billy called hoarsely,
"Julia! Julia! Julia!" He went on calling her name as if his senses had
left him. Pete's lips moved. Words came, but no voice; he stood like a
statue, whispering. Merrill remained silent; obviously he could not even
whisper; his was the silence of paralysis. Addington, on the other hand,
was all voice. "Oh, my God!" he cried. "Don't leave me, Peachy! Don't
leave me! Peachy! Angela! Peachy! Angela!" His voice ascended on the
scale of hysteric entreaty until he screeched. "Don't leave me! Don't
leave me!" He fell to his knees and held out his arms; the tears poured
down his face.

The women heard, turned, flew back. Holding themselves above the men's
heads, they fluttered and floated. Their faces were working and the
tears flowed freely, but they kept their eyes steadily fixed on Julia,
waiting for command.

Julia was ghastly. "Shall Angela fly?" she asked. And it was as though
her voice came from an enormous distance, so thin and expressionless and
far-away had it become.

"Anything!" Addington said. "Anything! Oh, my God, don't leave us!"

Julia said something. Again this word was in their own language and
again it was a word of command. But emotion had come into her voice -
joy; it thrilled through the air like a magic fluid. The women sank
slowly to earth. In another instant the two forces were in each other's
arms.

"Billy," Julia said, as hand in hand they struck into one of the paths
that led to the jungle, "will you marry me?"

Billy did not answer. He only looked at her.

"When?" he said finally. "To-morrow?"

"To-day," Julia said.

Sunset on Angel Island.

The Honeymoon House thrilled with excitement. At intervals figures
crowded to the narrow door; at intervals faces crowded in the narrow
window. Sometimes it was Lulu, swollen and purple and broken with
weeping. Sometimes it was Chiquita, pale and blurred and sagging with
tears. Often it was Peachy, whose look, white and sodden, steadily
searched the distance. Below on the sand, Clara, shriveled, pinched,
bent over, her hands writhing in and out of each other's clasp, paced
back and forth, her eye moving always on the path. Suddenly she stopped
and listened. There came first a faint disturbance of the air, then
confusion, then the pounding of feet. Angela, white-faced, frightened,
appeared, flying above the trail. "I found him," she called. Behind came
Billy, running. He flashed past Clara.

"How is she?" he panted.

"Alive," Clara said briefly.

He flew up the steps. Clara followed. Angela dropped to the sand and Jay
there, her little head in the crook of her elbow, sobbing.

Inside a murmur of relief greeted Billy. "He's come, Julia," Peachy
whispered softly.

The women withdrew from the inner room as Billy passed over the
threshold.

Julia lay on the couch stately and still. One long white hand rested on
her breast. The other stretched at her side; its fingers touched a
little bundle there. Her wings - the glorious pinions of her girlhood -
towered above the pillow, silver-shining, quiescent. Her honey-colored
hair piled in a huge crown above her brow. Her eyes were closed. Her
face was like marble; but for an occasional faint movement of the hand
at her side, she might have been the sculpture on a tomb.

Her lids flickered as Billy approached, opened on eyes as dull as
stones. But as they looked up into his, they filled with light.

"My husband - " she said. Her eyes closed.

But presently they opened and with a greater dazzle of light. "Our
son - " The hand at her side moved feebly on the little bundle there.
That faint movement seemed a great effort. Her eyes closed again.

But for a third time she opened them, and now they shone with their
greatest glory. "My husband - our son - has - wings."

And then Julia's eyes closed for the last time

Book of the day: