Lost Island, part 11

Chapter XI (pages 143-158) of Lost Island, which began here.

There was no way of keeping track of the time. That was measured by the life-span of a leaf. Good to have done with it for once. Let the leaves go on measuring the infinite and whispering about it among themselves. The waves, too, kept up the cosmic rhythm, if one could entirely interpret and understand it. Jane never could. Sometimes it seemed that with just one more beat she would know what those waves were saying or singing. But it remained a mystery.

Every morning was the bursting of a giant pearl. Jane, sitting on the threshold of the cave, clasping her knees, would watch the confusion of clouds and lights in a sky that was like the iridescent lining of a shell. Light glinted warmly on the eastern edges of rocks, and on Jane’s shoulders that were uniform brown now. The well-developed muscles of her arms caught the light, too, and stood out copper-colored from the brown. Her hair was bleached several shades lighter; and Davidson’s beard was a good two inches long.

They would wait silently until the gold spears began to shoot out of the sea, making the colors grow pale — until the first great gold sparkle of the sun appeared, swelling fast, an enormous bud of light ready to burst into flower. They would raise their hands, then, in solemn salute to this visible god who ruled their island, their day and night, their warmth and light, their very food supply — the god of flowers and butterflies.

Then down swiftly to the sea. By now they both knew the winding ledges of the cliff so familiarly that they could take the trip almost at a run; and neither hot sand nor barnacles bothered their well-hardened feet, these days.

Then came the playful running along the shore, arms flung upward in joy. There was companionship with the young wind, and the thrill of bare feet pounding against coral sand edged with foam. The very air glowed with color. Blue and bright, the sea lifted and fell, tangled with the sun and a streaming soft wind like a golden brook. Flying hair, flashing feet — and all of a sudden the end of flight, the strong clasp of golden arms, a whirl of blue sea, and Jane’s face against a tawny chest. Then the plunge into restless waves, the coppery sheen of wet shoulders, and a shower of spray from the heart of a rainbow.

“Jane, you’re divine, all excited that way in the sunlight.”

“Davidson, Davidson, Davidson! Oh, it’s so beautiful to be alive!”

On top of the cave, but back a little way in a sheltered hollow, was a long flat rock which, along with some small stones strategically laid on top of it, served as stove and fireplace. For rainy weather, there was a fireplace in the cave as well, but for the most part they preferred the open sunlight, and the feeling that they were really out in the world.

The whole business of fire and firewood had involved a good many problems, a good deal of humorous head-scratching, and a little discouragement. At first neither of them had been able to make any headway with fire-building by approved primitive methods. They possessed a few dry matches, to be sure, but these couldn’t be expected to last forever.

“We’ve got to dope this thing out before they’re gone, in fact,” Davidson said. “Seems ridiculous, when it’s so damned hot, not to be able to concentrate a little of the heat in one small spot. I could, if I had a burning-glass.”

“I don’t believe we’d need any fire at all to fry an egg or roast a breadfruit right now,” Jane observed. “Say — here’s an idea! How about kindling a fire tonight with one of those enormous fireflies. That ought to work.”

He studied her face, which was solemn. “All right,” he said. “We’ll try that.”

Eventually, of course, they decided that the simplest method was never to let the fire completely die out. It was easy enough, when they learned the tricks, to bank up hardwood coals so that they would last till morning. Then, a few dry twigs and a little blowing was all that was needed. If it started to rain during the night, Davidson would inevitably get up and rescue some of the coals.

Fire opened up infinite possibilities as far as the prosaic matter of diet was concerned. Roast breadfruit, for instance, was an overwhelming success. It took a long time to cook it, but it was worth waiting for. Roasted bananas were another success. And then there were eggs. First they had tasted those of the gulls, which nested all over the cliffs. But these had such an unpleasant taste that they gave up the idea in disgust. However, one day they noticed that an entirely different sort of bird shared part of the cliff, farther around on the northeast side. They were smaller, and looked like some sort of pigeon. Their eggs, though small, were much more edible than those of the gulls.

Lack of any sort of utensil in which things could be cooked made it necessary to bake everything, even eggs, in hot ashes. One day Jane tried the experiment of cutting a cooked and steaming hot breadfruit in half, hollowing one half out a little, and breaking eggs into the hollow. Stirring them gently for a few minutes scrambled them. A little milk from a ripe coconut worked well for sauce.

“We’ve got no kick coming,” they agreed.

Furthermore, pigeons’ eggs were not the only ones available. Sometimes, at the far end of the long beach, Jane and Davidson would find clumsy tracks leading to mounds of sand full of round turtles’ eggs, left to hatch in the heat of the sun. Although they never happened to catch sight of the huge sea-turtles that laid these, they gathered them up whenever they found them, like treasure-trove.

The inside of the cave itself was a good deal more comfortable now. Davidson had hunted out the tiny stream that dribbled through it — tracked it persistently to its lair in the forest, and changed its course by building a dam of mud and stones at a strategic point. He declared that he hadn’t had such a good time since he was a kid playing in muddy alleyways. Not only was it fun, but it worked. After a few days water ceased dripping in the cave, and some of the moss dried up. Using the sail of the skiff for a basket, they carried bundles of dry pink sand up the cliff, and with this filled the hollows in the floor, until it was even and smooth. This also made the cave seem brighter. When they built an occasional fire inside, at night, the leaping reflections of its flames danced on that smooth hearth of sand, catching specks of gleaming mica. The roof and walls approached and retreated eerily; shadows leaned like lithe witches out of obscure corners.

The vines at the cave mouth had been skillfully looped back, so that, without being torn or damaged, they were out of the way, although they could be pulled down at any time to hide the opening as before. In the day time, it was now comfortably bright inside. Furthermore — luxury of luxuries! — there was a bed. Jane and Davidson had carried in armfuls of fragrant ferns from the woods, and piled them up high and soft. They did not seem to Jane quite as satisfactory as the fir boughs of the north woods, and after they were dry and crisp they rustled at every movement. However, they were comfortable enough, especially with Jane’s ragged old overcoat spread over them to keep the stems from sticking into bare skin.

Various arts which were new to both of them had to be mastered. For instance, fat pink shrimps, excellent food, abounded along the fresh-water streams of jungle and mountain. Davidson cut sharp-pointed sticks, and practiced shrimp-spearing, as he had once seen South Sea natives do; but at first he had a complete lack of success. Jane laughed heartily at his attempts, and was no better herself.

“Can’t be done,” was her verdict. “Besides, do shrimps really make such wonderful eating?”

He persevered; and one day, as much to his own surprise as to hers, he withdrew his dart with a small pink body impaled upon its point. From then on, having learned that it was possible, they both grew gradually adept. There was  plenty of time for practicing….

Breakfast was always a gay affair. Jane, still dripping, just out of an iridescent sea, would be sitting back on her heels by the fireplace, blowing on the embers, strategically arranging small dry sticks, looking up triumphantly when they broke into flame.

“What’s for breakfast, Jane?”

“Eggs. Does Your Highness prefer turtles’ or pigeons’?”

“Kingfish steak, please. We haven’t done much about solving the fishing problem, have we? Don’t you know some kind of magic you could sit in the sea and sing, enticing fat kingfish from all around? You look as if you ought to know magic.”

“I feel as if I ought. Some time I’ll try…. Turtles’ or pigeons’?”

“Oh, both.”

“You aren’t ever satisfied, are you, David? At least two kinds of shellfish, shrimps, eggs, and endless fruit and vegetables — and me — and you have to have fish, too.”

“You see, it’s still sort of a challenge,” he explained.

“You have to have something to hunt, is that it?”

“Yes, males are like that. And now that I don’t hunt you any more — don’t have to — ”

“You’ll take fish for a substitute,” she put in. “Well, that’s flattering. I’ve always liked fish.”

She would often spend an hour or two crouching close to the sea, where the cliff dropped abruptly into a great green hollow, so deep that even the sun rays got discouraged. Probably a paradise for sharks, scientists, octopi, great ancient oysters nursing fabulous pearls, and writers of adventure stories. At another place the bottom could be seen, crystal-clear, thirty or forty feet below. The wall of the cliff was spangled with myriad bright forms of sea life. Extravagant fish lived here, some softly iridescent as a rainbow, others garishly striped, some like blue metal, or fragments of exotic china. Some had streamers and some spines, and their bodies were of all imaginable shapes; long and thin, eel-like; flat and round, like a pancake; tiny as a needle; or so thin that they seemed to have only two dimensions instead of three.

Jane would watch and study their movements, trying to figure out just where it was that even the most agile of human beings failed so utterly by comparison in the matter of swimming. Maybe, she thought, if she watched them long enough, her own muscles would somehow absorb those subtle, simple techniques — those lithe bendings of brilliant bodies; strong swift flicks of tail and fins, poising in water like a hummingbird on air; dashes that her eye could not hope to follow.

Educated persons usually had a firm belief that they knew more than simple folk. Did they, really? And was their particular kind of knowledge worth while? Scientists, for instance, seemed to understand all about these fish. They gave them Latin names, observed their habits, looked at their brains under microscopes. Pretty low form of brain, too. There wasn’t much, presumably, that you could teach a fish. Their scholastic ability was not high. But did that prove anything about them? If so, what? Here, you might quite comfortably believe that they were a higher form of life than man. This was a far cry from the laboratory. Never mind their I. Q.’s. Beauty had been built into them — fiber by fiber, muscle by muscle, scale by scale.

Davidson was mostly interested in catching them. They presented, as he said so often, a challenge to his virility. He, too, studied their movements, but thought of them as prey rather than as teachers. And, bit by bit, a little clumsily at first, but improving immensely as it went on, he began to fashion a net of coconut fiber with a small mesh. This was a long, tedious job — the sort of thing that would have become drudgery if taken too seriously. Little by little they added to it. Often they worked on it for a couple of hours at midday, when it was too hot to be active — she at one end, he at the other, at first clumsily experimenting, later more dexterously twisting and weaving and knotting.

At first they had planned to make a garden, bring down from the hill such rooty vegetables as yams and taro, and planting them in a cleared space above the cave. Then they had abandoned that idea; it seemed like unnecessary labor.

“It savors of regimentation,” Jane protested. “Yams don’t want to grow in rows, any more than you and I do; besides, it’s more fun to go scrambling round for ’em all over the countryside.”

So, instead of making a spade and a hoe, Davidson concentrated his energy on an axe….

“No, not an axe,” he would explain to her. “You couldn’t call it that.” It was a hard, sharp-edged stone wedged into a handle of wood, and held there by a piece of wire which had been part of the skiff’s rigging. He contemplated this effort with a good deal of misgiving. “It isn’t a patch on the ones you see in museums made by the Neanderthal Man,” he asserted, shaking his head comically.

“Yet they say evolution is going on.”

“Nonsense! Here’s a case where it’s going straight backwards. What would Darwin make of this, for instance?”

“He couldn’t do as well himself, I bet,” Jane affirmed.

“That’s right. Stick up for your cavemen…. Funny, isn’t it, to think that some time some snooping scientist will find this axe, and take it home convinced he’s discovered relics of the Missing Link? He’ll be knighted and receive medals for outstanding scientific achievement!”

He swung his tool heavily at a dead branch. It came clattering down, and the axe stayed together. He looked at it, surprised. “You know,” he said, “this thing may really be of use when it comes to collecting firewood.”

“You’ll never have half the fun getting firewood with it as you did making it,” said Jane. “Better start on something else.”

“Oh, you’re beginning to know me, are you?”

Every now and then they would have a sort of wood-gathering fiesta. They dragged in dead branches that lay on the ground; they cut more, stacking them in a dry place at the back of the cave. They would work perhaps half a day at this, happy to be doing anything, no matter what, so long as they were naked and in the sun. Then, streaming with sweat, their backs glistening with it, their eyes stinging a little, they would dive from the rocks at the foot of the cliff, into the sea that was neither cold nor warm.

A fresh-water shower was also at their service, but for this they had to walk. First, through the woods, skirting the slope of the hill; across the meadow valley on the far side; then up the stream and into the forest again — wilder forest now, more like traditional tropic jungle. They crept under vine arches, and brushed aside great lacy fronds of tree-ferns. The moss all through here was deep and soft. It overhung shaggily even the edges of the brook, and spread out over boulders like a rich Persian carpet. The brook was the only pathway through this forest. They waded up its bed in silence. Every once in a while, when it slid over the face of a rock or was blocked by fallen branches, they had to leave it and make their way into the woods for a short distance. The ground was buried in centuries of dark uneventful leaf-fall.

There was an air of mystery about this jungle. You might expect to see owls with large yellow eyes and soundless wings staring from branches, feathered sphinxes without color, almost without tangible form. If you held out your hand, it seemed ghostly white. Great black columns of trunk loomed…. But Jane and Davidson had followed the brook before and knew the soft-footed way of this forest.

At last they broke out on to an open ledge between upper and lower reaches of woods. There was a pool of sky, and the woods parted in a glade, like a fairy circle. You could edge around toward the south, and the mountain wall dropped precipitously. There was nothing below but tops of giant mango trees with their leaves quivering in unison when the breeze marched through them, and gleaming with touches of sunlight. A cascade plunged hilariously from a height far above, landed breathless in a swirling pool, and spilled more gently on to the ledge where Jane and Davidson were standing — a sparkling curtain of water. Fine spray splashed out from where it struck the ledge, and made small rainbows. Jane would stand underneath the shower. Her hot skin thrilled as that fragrant water went rippling down between her shoulder-blades. She held up her arms to it, and her face; it slid between her fingers, and streamed off her ragged hair. She twisted and turned in it, and Davidson, waiting for his turn, would smile with deep approval, in which there was often a touch of awe.

“You’re the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen,” he would tell her quietly; and, knowing that he meant it, she loved to hear him say it.

That dash of water would reawaken her energy. She would glance at him dangerously. “So — you want something to hunt!” she would exclaim with a mocking smile. And she would be off down the brook again in a series of agile leaps, with him in hot pursuit only a couple of deadfalls behind.

In the woods it was a question of agility in dodging among trees, climbing over tangled barricades, hiding behind dense enormous ferns. Jane took pleasure in learning to do all this without damaging her feet or getting more than superficially scratched. She never wearied of the joy of being naked out-of-doors — naked near the earth, like a wild animal; and she had become, at least in the woods, more than a match for the tall Davidson, who tended to get involved in creepers. “I’d make a good spy,” she would boast happily.

But in the open — it was another matter. Up the hill through the long grass they would strain, he gaining at every stride; for, although her wind was just as good as his, or even a little better on account of so much swimming, his long legs more than made up that difference. Sometimes she would be far enough ahead so that she had a chance to hide; she would lie panting and perspiring in the grass, feeling it tickle her skin, her heart pounding hard; wondering if she had hidden herself too well. He would come chasing up; she would spring to her feet and be off again, zigzagging like a butterfly, until, almost completely worn out, with laughing as much as with running, she would feel a pair of long heavy arms thrown around her shoulders, and down they would tumble together.

He would turn her over gently, and caress her. “Silly! What’s the use of taking showers, anyway?”

“So we can run, and get dirty, and then take another one. That’s life, and a good sort of life, too.”

“Well! Am I acknowledged to be a good hunter now?”

“Am I good game?”

“You don’t know half,” he would tell her. “Aren’t you glad to be caught?”

“You’re a very conceited hunter.”

“Well, aren’t you?”

“That would be telling.”

“Most beautiful princess, do you surrender?”

She would, gladly.

Love to them was so simple and whole-heartedly natural that she often wondered what was the matter with it when civilization got hold of it. She remembered, dimly through her happiness, that she had heard only wild hysterical outcries, wails of despair over love. People thought of nothing much else, and yet thinking about it made them unhappy. There was alarm and panic; people lost their heads. There was insanity, and there were strange suicides….

In the main, life on the island was serene. It would even have been unexciting, except that it was always so beautiful. The adventures were little things, such as finding a new batch of turtles’ eggs in the sand, hunting fruit in warm misty rain when the woods were dripping, running in the early morning along the edge of foam in the wind. Leaves fell, but trees were never left naked and cold-looking. The process of budding, growing, falling never ceased. It was odd to have no seasonal changes. This took away their last opportunity to keep even a vague hold upon sense of time. There was the moon, of course. They had tried to keep track of how many cycles it passed through, but they soon forgot.

“Soon now,” he observed whimsically one day, “we’ll be watching each other for the first white hairs.”

As usual in the tropics, it rained more during one part of the year than during the other, and it was colder then. There were some days when Jane would throw her overcoat around her shoulders, and Davidson was glad he had saved his old flannel shirt. But for the most part it was luxuriously hot — tending to be too hot. In spite of this, Jane and Davidson remained fairly active a good deal of the time. They were determined not to let tropical climate destroy the zest of living, the pleasure of active exercise. For two or three hours in the middle of the day, however, they had to surrender, and rest in the coolness of the cave or the woods.

Primitive existence could not be entirely without misfortune. The worst hour Jane had ever spent in her life anywhere was when Davidson, with the only tool he had, his jackknife, one by one pried half a score of sea-urchin spines out of the bottom of her foot. She had lain flat on her back in the shade at the top of the beach, and concentrated every ounce of will that she possessed into the single act of holding still.

Minor scrapes and scratches were inevitable. The only disinfectant they had was sea water. These many minor wounds had to be left to nature and the sun. In general, the excellent state of their health prevented trouble. Once both of them had a bad time with bramble scratches that festered. After that, they were more careful of brambles.

There were plenty of insects, especially in the wet season; but after the first few months these did not seem especially bothersome. “The mosquitoes can’t hold a candle to the Maine ones,” Jane would cheerfully insist. However, she developed chills and fever, whether from insect bites, diet, or dampness, she had no idea. For a few days, while she lay helpless and miserable, Davidson was frantic with anxiety. He had no idea how to fight the thing, thousands of miles from quinine or a doctor. He kept her warm, and that was all he could do. For days she was weak and could eat very little. It was more than a month before she was her normal energetic self…. But aside from these episodes, their good luck was little short of miraculous.

Jane tried to make friends with the gulls and pigeons. The gulls, especially, were majestic creatures, with a wing-spread of three or four feet. She liked to lie and watch them circling about the cliffs, lighting on the rocks or in the sea, taking off, sailing, using the wind expertly. Let man try as he would, mechanically he had never approached the primitive perfection of a bird’s flight. Perhaps, she thought, airplane engineers ought to do as she was doing. She giggled at the ridiculous vision of long lines of engineers prone on their backs on tropic beaches, studying the way a gull used his wings. (“Make the poor gull self-conscious as hell,” Davidson said.) After she had watched a long time, she began to get the feel of it, to live those motions although lying quite still — at last she could almost predict each move the bird would make. In another day or so, if she could only absorb just a little more of this perfect philosophy of flying, she would be soaring up there with them.

But better even than to watch them flying, was to have one of them feed out of her hand. So far she had not had much luck with the gulls; but the pigeons were almost as at home with her as those in Central Park. This was the final touch needed to make her feel absolutely that she belonged here, sharing the existence of wild free things — one of them herself….

The fish-net was finished. That was another great achievement. They went out from the cave at dawn to try it in a little cove which Davidson had used more or less as a measure in making it. The floor was sandy, dotted with black sea-urchins; the sides were two rocky promontories. Gulls seemed to favor the place, and Davidson had often seen fish there. Stretching the net between them in a loose roll, they walked out toward the sea, Jane on one promontory, Davidson on the other. The whole island, each individual rock and wavelet, and their own bodies, were touched with an early goldenness that was like no other color on earth. But Jane hardly stopped to think of the picturesque side of this expedition. She was busy keeping opposite Davidson, keeping the net from dragging. She hardly even glanced at his splendid back and shoulders touched with bronze, as both them stooped to drop the net in the water. One side of it, weighted with a row of stones carefully wound up in the mesh and tied there, sank quickly to the sandy floor; the other side, floated on a row of wooden blocks, stretched between them across the cove. Then, slowly, with a steady pull, they dragged it back toward the beach.

“And I don’t expect there’ll be a single fish in it,” Davidson called across to her; but his voice told her that he was as excited as a little kid.

“There might be a pot of gold,” she called back softly.

When they were nearly in they could see that more than a dozen frightened fish were darting about in an ever decreasing semicircle on the shore side. Of these, a couple slid through the mesh, and another dodged around one end. They seemed to be all of one kind, about a foot long and marked with brilliant lengthwise stripes of blue and red and green, these colors merging into one another in a display of iridescence that would make a rainbow feel ashamed. Their eyes were black and gold; their beautifully shaped fins were thin leaves of silver.

Davidson’s face was eager with concentration as he maneuvered the big net the last few feet, and drew the fish ashore. “I think these are what Spanish sailors call ‘damsels,'” he said; and added impetuously: “Who said I couldn’t make a fish-net?”

“They’re too beautiful to eat,” Jane said.

“What’ll we do with ’em, then? Let ’em go? The first catch in my fish-net, and all that trouble?”

“Well, David, we can’t eat nine large fish in one day. Your net works almost too well…. Are you satisfied at last? Feel like big, virile he-man, and all that?”

He ignored her teasing, and just looked thoughtfully at the bejeweled creatures, flapping hysterically in the sand.

Jane spoke up again. “I suggest we keep a couple of ’em, and let the others go, as a tribute to various gods. We owe tribute to sea-gods, coconut-fiber gods, sun-gods, and gods of luck — also whatever gods arranged that color-scheme!”

“You pagan!”

“Of course! I’m getting religious in my old age. I’ve always wanted to be religious, only my gods have to be picturesque.”

Chapter XII.

Lost Island, part 12

Chapter XII (pages 159 – 169) of Lost Island, which began here.

“Jane — come here and look.”

She had just awakened. Early morning light filled the cave, shimmered faintly golden on the sand floor. She stretched lazily, then got up and came to where Davidson stood, on the threshold, pointing out to sea. She followed his finger, but saw only the long blueness.

“I don’t see anything,” she told him.

He dropped his arm, but still stood staring.

“What is it?”

“I’m not quite sure,” he said. “Look again, Janie — just under that little cloud.”

“In the sky?”

“No — the sea.”

“Davidson — not a ship!”

“I’m not sure,” he repeated. “But there’s something.”

The possibility of a ship anchoring in their harbor had not occurred to Jane for a long time. She had come to feel that they would live here all their lives and eventually die here. She looked on the island as indisputably, irrevocably theirs, their home, their kingdom. She had even thought that some day, in spite of all the obvious difficulties, she would like to have children here. What would the landing of this ship, if it was a ship, mean to their world? Instinctively she drew back from the idea. It was an unknown quantity, and to be feared. It was the intrusion of something alien.

Yet mingled with these feelings was intense curiosity — and of course the instinct of gregariousness common to everyone except perhaps a few carefully self-hardened cynics — an instinct enormously intensified by long isolation….

“Yes,” Davidson finally said. “It’s a ship.”

She could barely make it out now, herself — a microscopic speck — oh, less than a speck — on the rim of the world.

“Davidson, what — ?” But she stopped short. A thousand unspoken questions were in her mind, but how could he answer them?

It would probably be noon before the ship could get in, for the wind was light. Jane and Davidson went about their usual daily life, trying to be unconcerned, but succeeding very poorly. A scrap of civilization was coming — white sails were pressing in upon them; how could they turn their backs upon such an invasion? Davidson, like Jane, was uncertain as to whether he should welcome or fear it. Only, when the ship came near enough so that he could tell she was a schooner, his eyes seemed to light up. Jane noticed it, and was more frightened than ever.

“Pretty,” he said, very low. The sun was blazing on her tall sails. Did she look to him much as the Annie Marlow had looked to her years ago?

“What shall we do, Daveson? Go down and meet these people?”

“Sure — they may be in trouble — need water or something.”

“Or maybe they’re pirates,” she suggested. “What’ll we use for clothes?”

He looked at her and smiled. “I forgot how naked we are,” he said. “Let’s ransack the oddments and see what we can find.”

The dreary little pile of clothes was in the back of the cave. They hauled them out into the sunlight — tenderly, for fear they would fall to pieces. Jane put on her old red skirt. But the faded green blouse split down the front as she struggled with it, and she looked at Davidson in dismay.

“Put it on backwards,” he advised her. “And now let’s see what’s left of my pants.”

Fortified by these threads of civilization, they sat on the rocks in front of their cave, watching what was going on below. They heard the purring squeak of gaffs coming down, and the rumble of the anchor chain. The schooner was still pretty far out — of course the captain would not risk her in the shoals of a strange harbor. A boat was lowered. It looked as if there were three in it, apparently dressed, or half-dressed, in traditional tropic fashion, with white pants and wide-brimmed hats.

“They don’t look very piratical,” Davidson said. “Let’s go down and see what it’s all about.” But for a minute or two she could not help holding back. “Come on,” he urged. “It’s probably one of those wandering scientific expeditions, out after bugs and corals and compass variations.”

There were three in the boat: a big, dark, bearded fellow; a tight-set young man in a helmet; and a thin tall man with distant blue eyes and gray hair showing beneath his hat. He carried a large butterfly net. That was the first thing to catch Jane’s eye, and she resented it…. Butterfly-hunting on her island?

“You’re right,” she whispered to Davidson. “Scientists.”

The men were too absorbed in their landing to notice the islanders. But presently the big man looked up and caught sight of them, standing quietly at the edge of the woods. “Hello! Hello there!” he shouted impulsively. Then he added: “D’you speak English?”

Jane laughed frankly, and Davidson found his voice. “Castaways,” he explained huskily. “Annie Marlow.”

The big man hung fire a minute, and then fumed with jerky energy. “Annie Marlow! By jings!” he exclaimed. “I remember. Lost with all hands. I remember. Well, for Christ’s sake!”

They shook hands all around, and introduced themselves. The big man was captain; the young, tight-lipped one was Thomas, geologist of the expedition; the one with the net was Richardson, an entomologist of whom Jane dimly remembered having heard through old Professor Myers years ago.

“Off on a holiday?” she asked, trying to be casual.

Holiday!” the skipper exclaimed. And he looked quizzically at the others. “No, you couldn’t call it that.”

“How’d you happen to land up here?” Davidson asked. “And where are we, anyhow?”

“You got us, brother,” said the captain. “I can tell you the latitude and longitude, but that doesn’t help much.”

“You mean, the island isn’t known about at all?” Jane asked.

The geologist shook his head, and the captain went on explaining. “We knew this part of the ocean hadn’t been explored, and we wanted to chart currents and such stuff. And Mr. Thomas here had a theory that if there did happen to be any islands round hereabouts, they’d be — interesting — from a geological standpoint…. Say, is there any water on the God-damned place? We’ve got mighty low. Had me worried.”

“Sure there’s water,” Davidson said. “And plenty of fruit and stuff. I bet you could stand some fresh stuff, couldn’t you?”

“Sure could!… My God! So you two’ve been living here all this time!”

“How long is it, anyway?” Jane asked.

The captain considered. “Annie Marlow,” he repeated slowly. “Well, must be nigh on to three years ago we heard about her being lost…. Three years!” he exclaimed, as the thought struck him forcibly. “Say, I’ll bet you’re a’mighty glad to see somebody. Musta been hell-fired lonesome. It’s a damn wonder you found enough to live on…. Well, we’re going home to New York. How does that sound, eh?”

“New York!” Jane exclaimed sharply.

“Impatient?” the skipper queried. “Well, it won’t be long. A few days ought to finish up our looking round here, hadn’t it, Ned?” he asked the young geologist.

“She’s a darn pretty schooner you’ve got there,” Davidson remarked.

The rather coarse-looking captain changed countenance, and for a second he looked out to sea with the same affectionate pride that Jane had seen many a time on old Captain Maynard’s weatherbeaten face…. “Sailors!” she exclaimed softly to herself, half-exasperated, half-admiring.

Besides these three men, they learned that there was a crew of mate, cook, and three seamen, and an indefinite number of other scientists, all working day and night over collections and records, all engulfed in back-breaking work. Their method was to land anywhere that looked scientifically promising; there they would camp for a few days and collect feverishly almost everything they came across. During the next interval at sea they would compile their records and slave intensely over tabulations, analyses, charts, graphs, amid batteries of delicate instruments. They had been under way for two years now, and were ready to run home to their laboratories and see what they had actually accomplished.

The islanders showed Captain Porter where to fill his water-cask, a few hundred yards back of the beach in the woods; and Jane helped him fill with wild oranges a basket he had brought along. The skipper was mightily concerned for the well-being of these castaways.

“Say, wouldn’t you folks like to come out to the schooner? Guess we could scare up a couple o’ bunks for you. Bet a decent feed would taste a’mighty good.”

Jane thanked him cordially enough, but said they were doing fine — in fact, they had worked it out to a point where they were eating regally…. The captain looked at her in unconcealed amazement, doubtless thinking that the long ordeal had made this poor child daft. He scratched his head, while she continued to pick oranges, oblivious. Presently he asked her if there wasn’t anything they’d like to have brought in to them in the morning: blankets, a water-pail, matches…? Wasn’t there anything in the way of grub she had a yen for? Not that they had anything very fancy.…

“Why, yes,” she told him frankly, from a branch half-way up the orange tree. “I’ve sometimes thought I’d love a slice of bread and butter and sugar.”

At this the burly fellow burst into a long roar of laughter. It struck him as incongruous beyond anything he had ever heard that this girl, marooned so long in terrible solitude without any of the things that made life worth living, should voice this naive and child-like desire for bread and butter and sugar. He, in her shoes, would have had torturing dreams of beef-steak, tender, running with red juice… or a fat turkey… chestnut stuffing….

After they were gone, Jane and Davidson climbed very quietly back to their cave. They sat down on the rocks, and watched the boat reach the schooner’s side, and the three men climb up the rope ladder.

“I don’t like that Thomas chap,” Jane said suddenly. “He looks hard and selfish. I wonder what he’s up to with his geology.”

“Well, it isn’t any of our business.”

“Davidson, are we going with them?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

Her resentment surged up. “But why should we?” she demanded bitterly. “The world hasn’t anything for you and me. What would we do in — New York — of all places! Aren’t we happy here?”

“They’ll think we’re crazy if we stay here,” Davidson mumbled.

“Well, isn’t that our business? We’ll go off and hide on the mountain till they’ve gone.”

But Davidson did not answer. He only stared at the little schooner as if he could not take his eyes off her. “How I’d like to have one of my own,” he sighed, “and sail in her all over the world!”

A silent panic seized Jane. She knew that the sailor in him was awake and rampant, that he was hearing waves slap against a courageous prow, and the song of wind in the sails — cold northern wind — a virile wind, instead of these tropic zephyrs. Was this, after all, any kind of life for a red-blooded man: flowers, butterflies, fishes? Was she going to lose him, then — lose him to the sea? Was every white-winged ship to be her rival?… Twice during the night he got up restlessly; she saw him stand silhouetted in the mouth of the cave. She knew he was staring down into the harbor where he could see the pin-pricks of the schooner’s riding lights. Then he would return, with a curious sigh…. Jane lay perfectly still, with her hands clenched by her sides, looking straight up into the cave’s black roof, as though lying awake and tense, without relaxing, was somehow a way of fighting the sea. Davidson slept fitfully enough. Once, as he turned over, his arm fell heavily across her chest, like a gesture of reassurance…. I against a ship, thought Jane — I against a ship….

The scientists came ashore in the morning, six of them, and some of the seamen as well. They brought a tremendous pile of dunnage: tent, mosquito nettings, shovels and pickaxes, water buckets, cameras, bottles, scientific instruments. It made Jane laugh a little to see them laboriously carting all that stuff ashore. Such extensive preparation was incongruous and amusing, when she had managed life so very well with no earthly possessions whatever. Civilization certainly did burden one with luggage, she reflected — oh, Lord, masses of mental and material luggage to be carried….

They did not go down to meet the party this morning. Jane stood on the ledge in front of the cliff, watching the little group of men on the beach…. All at once an explosion, a terrific ghastly scream from scores of birds’ throats, Jane’s scream mingled with them, a thunderous clatter of wings from the cliff, and the unbearable sight of a crumpled bird reeling in his flight and falling, stricken — falling….

Jane stood glaring savagely. She could see the detestable Mr. Thomas, his shotgun smoking, walk up the beach to recover the bird he had killed. And suddenly she felt that she could not tolerate these meddling scientists — coming to her island to catch butterflies and murder birds, and bringing their cursed little schooner under Davidson’s sailor eyes, tantalizing him, maybe luring him off to sea. She could no longer control her rage, and, half-crying hysterically, she went running back into the woods, tearing through the brush, jumping over the tangled deadfalls until, completely broken in wind, she could not run any longer. And even this violence of hers could not make her forget the horror of seeing that free, living creature struck down before her very eyes in the midst of its flying….

This running away into the woods had always been her favorite escape, from other people or from herself, beginning with her childhood in Maine. The woods of Maine were very different, though. There, she had looked up into a wavering lattice of pine branches, sparking silver in the sun. She remembered that one day, alone and half-afraid, she had put her arms around a young white pine, leaned her slender body upon it, and felt at once as though she had a friend. That tree had seemed solid and permanent. As permanent as anything on earth could be. Not even the earth itself was really permanent. Some day maybe the machinery of the universe would go wrong — the balance would be upset — and the earth would go catapulting into its sun like a very small moth into a gigantic flame.

She remembered, too, liking the way a tree lived — drawing its own sustenance direct from the earth, dispensing sustenance generously to the world around it; roots solid in the earth, growing and gripping; branches free to wave in the wind and to sparkle in the sun; trunk flexible, swaying with the weather. You could learn something from that. If you understood it properly, you could read from it the equivalent of many dusty bookshelves of philosophy. Once people had worshipped trees. A sensible worship, too, since without them the human race could not live…. She had decided then that, in her own humble way, she would try to live as a tree did.

She wandered restlessly among tropic creepers, and tried to forget the murdered seagull — tried to dispel her fears about the island. She could not get away from the haunting idea that the visit of these scientists somehow spelled disaster — disaster on a larger scale than the sacrifice of a few specimens. She was overwhelmed by a new realization of the transitory nature of everything in life. Nothing could be counted on, anywhere. All was shifting and mirage-like. That was pretty difficult to accept. Human nature had an unfortunate clinging tendency, a tragic desire to make life settle, a pitiful expectation that it would stay settled. Human nature could never get used to the idea of life as a relentless river, eventually carrying everything away with it, bringing new things, carrying them away in turn.

Beauty changed. You yourself changed, perhaps more than anything. Perhaps this was good, if you could only learn to accept it. Perhaps it could keep you happy and interested, if you only knew how to use it. It might enable you to revolve in the same direction as the world, instead of bucking it, trying to make it revolve as you wanted.

Jane laughed, then. Once she had complained at absence of change. Now she was bitterly fighting this menace of change. She had often called herself a rebel, hater of civilization; now she was wondering if it was not wiser to try and go with the world. And the paradox was that all these conflicting thoughts had some measure of sense and truth. She felt herself temporarily posted at a vantage point, a mountain outlook from which she could survey the landscape. She saw the whole intricate mesh spread out below, a spider-web of feelings, motives, opinions, dreams, complaints in conflict with one another. They were all true, they were all false; and, looked at from far away, they were all a little bit absurd.

Even this peaceful island was the scene of confusion now. The scientists had their motives, doubtless as real as her resentment of them. She had her dreams. Davidson was torn by two desires. And the ogre that was civilization, that had so considerately left them alone for nearly three years, was now brooding again over the scene with a cynical eye, laughing, doubtless, as the bird fell, a white crumpled thing in the sunlight…. She almost wished she were devoid of emotion, for apparently it was futile, or absurd, or both, to want anything too much, to believe anything too strongly, to get mad, or to be unhappy. Yet how unlikeable a person would be, who did none of these things!…

The scientific party camped on the west side of the hill. For Jane, there was not the slightest possibility of any friendly relations with them. Davidson strolled over to the tent once in a while to chin with them, and he brought back amusing tales of their doings. Once he brought back a small package wrapped in a napkin. For Jane, he said, with Captain Porter’s compliments…. There was one sailor in the party, a young chap named Wilson, whom he liked. This Wilson had for years been saving money, a few pennies at a time, so that some day he could buy a little boat of his own. Talking together, the two men found that they shared a dream — and their friendship was cemented.

Fragments of their conversation were repeated to Jane, and she could guess the rest. For the most part, Davidson did not talk much about the sea. But there was a new touch of restlessness in the atmosphere. Often she would find him brooding. He would struggle with these moods, and throw them off, and be unusually kind and tender to her for a while; and she knew that he was doing this consciously, logically — and that it never quite worked. It was pathetic, and hateful because it divided them. She surmised that he was trying to fight it intellectually — rationalize it out of existence. She racked her brains for some way to help him accomplish this — some way to steel him against the whisperings of the sea. There were moments when she was frantic with fear and exasperation. She would have enjoyed burning the schooner that drew Davidson’s eyes so irresistibly, except that that would have stranded this unwelcome company indefinitely on the island!

One evening Davidson came back to the cave gloomier than ever. Jane asked no questions. She supposed it was another attack of the sea. But presently of his own accord he spoke to her. “Bad news,” he said very softly. “We’re through here, Jane.”

And although she had been fearing this for days, half expecting it, she felt all the breath go out of her body, leaving her limp.

“What’s happened?” she asked faintly.

“They’ve found what they were after,” he said. He was holding his head in his hands, not daring to look at her.

“But I don’t understand,” she protested. “What were they after, David?”

He answered in one word. “Gold,” he said.

Chapter XIII…

Lost Island, part 13

The cover page for this chapter indicates that it’s XIV, not XIII, but the page numbers follow on from the end of Chapter XII, and I believe “XIV” was simply a very rare error on Barbara’s part.

Chapter XIII, pp. 170-193, of Lost Island, which began here.

New York was exactly as Jane had known it would be. As the schooner came close and swung into the harbor, using her auxiliary engine, the water was gray with hard usage. Skyscrapers rose up, domineering, in a gesture of ugly triumph. Undefeatable, inevitable, that city. There was no more permanent escape from it than from death. Some of the buildings were blackened with waterfront soot. Terribly high and frowning, huddled together in a grim crowd. It occurred to Jane that perhaps even they were tired of standing with their feet in filth, looking inevitable.

Jane rested both elbows on the bulwarks, and then her face on her arms. Going to her doom without looking at it. No use to look. Couldn’t avert it by looking any more than by hiding one’s eyes. A subtle hideous cloud of odors — typical welcoming gesture. It suggested — what? Stale fish, garbage, sewage…. A tug passed them, like a squat black goblin. A radio aboard it poured forth jazz interspersed with a long eulogy concerning tobacco.

Jane did not want to see the troop of big gulls that trailed the schooner. Their wings were dingy, and their calls greedy and hollow. Not at all the same breed of gull that had followed the Annie Marlow to sea!…

She had forgotten how much noise there was. The city had a continuous savage roar, pierced by jagged shrieks of automobile horns, now and then shaken into shrapnel by an elevated train or a heavy truck. There was no escape from that din, an enormous pressure on ears used to the sea and the leaves. No escape until eventually, having defeated an unwilling desk clerk, they found themselves in a mousy green-carpeted room in a cheap hotel. Even then the roar could be heard — muffled to a dull growl outside.

They sat down on the bed. Davidson put his arm around her, and felt that she was trembling. For a while she said nothing at all, then laughed a little, hollowly.

“Hurrah!” said Davidson. “Do that again. What were you thinking of?”

“I was thinking that now we’re really marooned,” she said.

She got up and walked nervously around the room. As she passed one corner, she was startled by a quick flash of movement beside her. A mirror, of course. The first she had seen. She looked at her own brown face, crowned with its ragged mop of hair that stuck up and out in all directions like a Fijian’s — and at sight of herself, looking so ludicrous and forlorn, she could not help laughing again. It was more nearly genuine this time.

“Number two,” said Davidson. “We’re getting on fine.”

“Good God, Daveson! No wonder those customs people looked at us so queerly. It surprises me they let us land at all.”

“Wilson told ’em about us,” Davidson said. “He’s a decent chap, Wilson. Loaned me some money, by the way.”

“That’s lucky. I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

“A rather essential commodity,” he said glumly.

“Yes — and one of the chief things wrong with the world. Being a slave to that trash — ghastly to think of it. Money! And now it’s ruined our island, too.”

“What would you think of getting in on the gold-hunting down there?” he asked.

“I’d hate it,” she said vehemently.

“I was talking it over with Wilson. He seems to know a bit about such things. He said you couldn’t possibly get in on it without capital. Not a chance. The worst kind of closed-corporation gyp-game affair. I could go as laborer and pan for the blasted stuff, and get about two bucks a day at best.”

“I wouldn’t even want to live there,” Jane said indignantly. “Not with that going on. It seems criminal, that that island, so far away from anything to do with money, should be torn up for it now. It makes me want to kill somebody. Watching them blast and drill would be like seeing a thousand seagulls killed every minute. It would be like eating into my own flesh with their cursed steam-shovels. It would be — giving in to ugliness, Daveson — and we promised we’d never do that!”

“Jane,” he said softly, “don’t rave. Save your strength. And remember one nice thing: that when we last saw it, it was still untouched and peaceful and lovely. We can keep it forever.”

“You’re right,” she said. “We’ve got to think about the present, and about New York. What are we going to do?”

“I’m going to a barber,” he said.

“Me to — and then?”

“Well, we have to live somewhere — somewhere cheaper than a hotel. Any ideas on that?”

“Oh, sure, I’ve worked that problem once or twice before. We’ll chase up a one-room-and-kitcheonette affair, and keep house. But I’ve got to have a few rags to cover me, even to see landladies in. I’d never get anywhere, looking this way.”

“What will you use for money?”

“I don’t know. How much did Wilson lend you?”

“Ten bucks,” he said.

“That’ll just about pay the hotel, and the barber, and a few meals,” she said.

“Couldn’t you borrow some somewhere? Haven’t you friends in town?”

She thought of Professor Myers, and wondered if she could ever muster courage to go traipsing into that office looking like a lost gipsy, to ask for a loan.

Then suddenly her eyes lit up. “Idea!” she exclaimed. “David, I’ve got some money myself. In a bank — somewhere in a bank — let’s see — Greenwich Savings — that’s it! Hooray! We’re saved!”

“How much?”

“About two hundred. That’ll tide us over beautifully, till we get going.”

“‘Get going,'” he repeated sadly. “Where, Jane?”

“Yes, let’s talk about that.”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing very cheerful to say about it.”

She looked at him intently, and it seemed to her that now was perhaps as good a time as any to talk to him about the sea.

“Why did you want to leave the island?” she queried. “Was it really the gold, or was it — the sea?”

“The gold,” he said unhappily. “I’m a sailor, and I can’t help getting restless, Jane, but I’ve sense enough to know that going to sea hasn’t much for me any more. It’s a futile life. I want it, but I know better, that’s the story.”

“But you did want to have a little boat,” she said softly.

“Of course — who hasn’t dreamed pleasant dreams of little boats and far places? Why think about dreams now?”

“Well,” she said, “if we worked hard for a few years, and saved our money, why shouldn’t we have one, and sail it everywhere, and maybe discover new islands?”

And they both smiled, at the incongruity of saying these things at this time, in this place.

“Have you any plans at all?” she asked him. “For tomorrow, I mean. After the barber.”

“Yes. After the barber, I’m going to traipse down to the waterfront, and see what’s doing?”

“But — Davidson, you won’t have to go to sea, will you?”

“Let’s not think about it. I’m going to try everything else, first. There might be a job on a tug-boat, or a fish-barge.”

“It would be hell to be a sailor’s wife,” she said.

“I know it — but I’m afraid you are.”

“It would be nice, on the other hand, to be a schooner-captain’s wife. I’d love that.”

He smiled, but not happily. “You incurable little romanticist!” he mocked.

“Is that so far-fetched, then? Aren’t there any other Annie Marlows?

“Oh, a handful — sure. But every storm that comes along leaves fewer. And the crews are men that have been in those particular companies for years. Besides, I haven’t got captain’s papers, only mate’s. Most of the captains are graybeards. If I wanted to do that, I’d have to stick at sea, and stick at sea, and do nothing else for years — and when I was an old man I might get a schooner, if there were any left.”

“You make it sound grim, all right.”

“It is grim.”

“Davidson, as soon as we find a place to live, and get settled, I’m going to wander into my old office. If there isn’t a job there, there might be a lead. You’d feel less — less crushed, wouldn’t you, if I had a job, too?”

“No!” he exclaimed vehemently. “I’d hate it. It would make me feel like a worm — a third-rate worm.”

“But why? I’d want to help.”

“Well, you’ll probably have to. But how do you think it makes a man feel, that his wife has to work for her bread?”

“But if it makes a dream come true sooner?”

“Dreams, dreams — always dreams,” he muttered.

“But they are important, Daveson, even in New York. Perhaps especially in New York. And by the way, New York’s no place in which to be a lady of leisure.”

“Sorry to go up in the air,” he said. “But about this idea of you having a job — well, I’m old-fashioned, I guess. I just want you to be my wife.”

“Which reminds me that I’m not,” she said. “It’s rather an amusing thought. We’re carrying on an affair, Daveson. I’m your mistress. Isn’t that sort of funny?”

“What are  you talking about? Don’t you think the stars have any authority here? Haven’t you got on your finger a ring I made?”

In the morning they determined that, however severe the struggle might be, however hard it was to get going again, they would sail into it with no procrastination. “Because,” Jane said, “if we hang around and rest up, what courage we’ve got will start petering out, and we’ll be left like leaky balloons.”

“What’s first, Jane?”

“Well, I thought I’d collect my money. Then shop. Then hunt up a place to live. And then meet you here tonight. We’d probably better stay another night here.”

“And meanwhile I’ll explore fish barges, etc.”

She climbed into the absurdly ripped green blouse, which she had mended after a fashion aboard the schooner; and the red skirt, which she still loved. She had no stockings, and her shoes were tattered. Then she tried in vain to smooth out her hair by running her fingers through it. “I’m off,” she said.

“Good luck. Don’t get run over.”

Breakfast: coffee and two stale doughnuts at a corner drug-store. After that Jane wandered off uptown to look for her bank. Reason told her she was in the city, but spiritually she could not accept it. Too vast a change, and too swift and cruel. Immensely tall buildings shot up around her, buildings that made her feel dwarfed and frightened. Streams, floods of people swept past her, jostled against her. They were like an ugly wind. Mostly they did not notice her at all; but every now and then someone did, which was much worse. An occasional face turned over a shoulder to stare, and then to laugh. A girl with garish red lips pointed Jane out to her companion. A man yelled: “Hi there, Cinderella!” People — she had forgotten people were like that. She stood on the curb, ridiculous in her short skirt, her frowsled hair. Traffic poured by. The city roared. She was really frightened, all of a sudden — cruelly frightened. She did not know how to get across the street, through that ceaseless mad flood of traffic. Her heart was pounding. The circle of great towers moved unsteadily and rocked in upon her, throwing ghastly shadows, and then wheeled back to leave cosmic spaces…. Cowering, she sat down on the curbstone, and waited, as calmly as she could, for her senses to clear.

“What’s up?” said a voice overhead. “Hi there, miss! What’s up, I said?”

Jane looked into the grinning face of a burly policeman. “What’s up?” she repeated slowly. “Oh, nothing. I…”

“Are you sick?”

“No; I’m looking for the Greenwich Savings Bank.”

“Right across the street,” he said, grinning more than ever, and pointing. “Here! Let me take you over.”

Traffic lights changed, the currents of people mingled, conflicted, altered. The policeman grabbed her arm firmly, and escorted her with mock solemnity to the opposite sidewalk. She thanked him timidly. “Thick, isn’t it?” she said, by way of conversation.

He looked at her curiously. “Don’t forget the one-horse shay next time you come to the big city,” he advised.

She summoned all her courage, and swung into the bank. A somber and awesome palace of marble that made her feel smaller than ever. She filled out a withdrawal slip, and handed it in at one of the long row of gilded windows.

“Well, where’s your bank-book?” the young clerk demanded.

For a second she was nonplussed. “Oh, that!” she began. “I haven’t got it; it’s…”

“Sorry, miss, but we can’t do anything without it. Next, please!”

“But listen!” Jane exclaimed. “I’ve been shipwrecked — the book… I…”

“Whaddya trying to pull on me? Next, please!”

Jane turned away. She could not cope with this. Not in these clothes, anyway. On the other hand, to buy clothes she must have money. She moved slowly toward the door. “Now what?” she mumbled aloud.

Somebody touched her shoulder gently. A girl with piercing brown eyes under the low brim of a jaunty black hat was looking at her and smiling. “Do excuse me,” she said, “but I heard what you said, and wondered if I could help. Have you really been shipwrecked?”

“Of course — why should I make it up?”

“Jiminy crickets, how I envy you!” the girl exclaimed. “Was it exciting? Look here, can’t we be friends? I’ve never known anyone who has had adventures.”

Jane smiled, a little puzzled. “Of course,” she said. “My name’s Jane — Jane Carey.”

“Mine’s Margaret Kingsley,” said the other. “And I’m tickled to death to know you.” They shook hands. “But this isn’t the time to chew the rag, is it, Jane Carey? You’re sort of up against it, aren’t you? Can’t I help? Now, please don’t be stubborn and independent.”

Jane was a friendly person, and succumbed easily to friendliness. “Sure, you can help, if you want,” she said. “The immediate problem is, I can’t fight for my money till I have some decent-looking clothes, and I can’t get any clothes till I have my money.”

“You look swell just as you are,” the other said. “It’s a darn shame to spoil it. But I can see that we’ve got to, if you’re going to live round here. Now, look here. It’s easy as pie. I’ve got charge accounts round various places. You just buy whatever your heart desires and your body requires, and pay me when you can. By the way, I’ve got nothing to do today, and I’d adore to come with you, if you’d like moral support; on the other hand, if you’d rather go alone, I can understand that, too.”

“But wouldn’t you be ashamed to be seen with me?”

“Don’t be ridic! I’m proud of naming one exciting person among my friends.”

“Whatever do you do that makes life so uninteresting?” Jane queried.

“Fashion model. Mannequin. Advertising model, etc., etc. Pose in corsets. Parade like a peacock in evening dresses, with a doll-like smile. I’m always either strapped or flush. Right now I’m flush, so you needn’t feel bad.”

“You’ll be a good one to dress me, anyhow,” Jane said. “You’d better come along.”

“Well, let’s go, then,” said the other. “Where do we start?”

“Underwear,” Jane said. “Haven’t a stitch on under this rag.”

Margaret giggled delightedly, and the two set off, a ludicrous contrast, arm in arm.

With each purchase Jane’s confidence grew. She slipped into new underwear in the women’s rest room of a large department store. That made it possible to try on dresses. Jane picked out two of them. Next came shoes and stockings. She watched her own gradual transformation with interest.

“Say, I’m beginning to look almost civilized,” she commented to Margaret.

“Yes, drat it, you are. But only from the shoulders down. We’ve got to do something about that sublime mop of hair, I’m sorry to say. We’ve got to make you look like everybody else. How long since it’s been combed, Jane?”

“I don’t know. Years.”

Margaret sighed. “Gosh, what wouldn’t I give never to comb mine again!… Well, let’s go chase a hair-dresser.”

Jane emerged from the hair-dresser’s clutches with her brown hair washed and sleeked, trimmed into a conventional short bob, and finger-waved. She looked at herself in the mirror. “‘O dearie me, this is never I,'” she quoted, laughing.

“You know, Jane, you’re really pretty — but not half so pretty as you were,” Margaret said.

“However, now I’ll get by,” Jane said. “And I’m going straight back to that bank and talk to the manager.”

“Atta girl! But I’m not quite through with you yet.”

“What more?”

“Well, a hat, for instance. And some gloves. Pocket-book, handkerchieves, comb, powder, and lipstick.”

Jane sighed.

“Sick of it?”

“Well — isn’t it lunch-time yet?”

Margaret looked at her watch. “I should say it is! In fact, it’s two-thirty. I was so enraptured watching you struggle with civilization, Jane, that I never thought about time. Haven’t had so much fun in years. Well, ‘let’s have another cup of coffee, and let’s have another piece of pie.'”

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with odds and ends of shopping; and, when it was finished, it was too late, and Jane too tired, even to think about apartment-hunting. She said goodbye to her friend, and walked slowly back to the mousy little hotel, and Davidson.

Davidson looked at her incredulously. “My God!” he said after a while. “You’ve painted your face.”

“Is it awful?”

“It isn’t you. It’s a very handsome young lady, but not Jane.”

“That’s just what I think,” she said. “It’s New York. You’ll get used to it.”

“No. What have you done to your hair?… You make me feel as if I had a mistress.”

“Well, haven’t you?”

“No. I had a wife once, but I guess she’s lost — same as the island. Jane, somehow I thought you’d stay the same through anything.”

“I couldn’t,” she said. “You’ll have to learn to see through the superficial. You wouldn’t object so much if you could have seen how they laughed at me before I got some clothes.”

He gritted his teeth in impotent resentment.

“What sort of luck did you have?” she asked him.

He looked pale and dusty, and she guessed from his voice that he was tired almost beyond endurance. All day he had been about the waterfront. He had hoped to land some sort of job with a towing company, or a ship-chandler — anything to keep him in New York — probably in the harbor or along the waterfront, because it was the only life he knew. He had looked over the shipping, talked with sailors and stevedores and tug-captains, hearing only how desperate conditions were, being discouraged everywhere.

“Never mind, Jane — tomorrow…”

There was no rest. In the morning they separated again. Jane, a little heart-sick and fearful, walked uptown. She was steadied by the fact that now no one took any notice of her at all. In fact, she looked like any other reasonably well-dressed young woman with a good figure and an intelligent face. She was New York, as she had said to Davidson last night.

As she walked, she thought over the bank-book question. Had she taken it to sea with her? Today it seemed that she had left it with Millie; but she could not remember for sure. Millie?… She wandered into a drug-store, found a telephone book, and stood absently thumbing its pages. No results there. Then she had an idea, and called the switchboard of the apartment house where they had lived.

“Does Miss Carson still live here? Miss Rogers, then? Both left a year ago?… Any address?… No?…”

Frustrated in that quarter. Nothing left for it but to go to the bank and try to make somebody believe her.

She selected another of the long row of gilded cages. “Have you still an account in the name of Jane Carey?” she asked.

The clerk referred to large books, and finally shook his head. “Naw,” he said. “She took it out of here a year ago.”

“But — ” Jane began. Then she turned away. So that was it! Millie had her bank-book; Millie had been desperate for money; Millie had moved from the apartment a year ago, and taken Jane’s money with her!

That meant — well, if Davidson didn’t land something right away, it meant that she would either have to borrow indefinitely from Margaret Kingsley, or else find herself some sort of job without allowing herself even the brief reprieve she had hoped for. She wondered what had happened to Millie; what trouble she had got into desperate enough to make her rob her best friend. Rob? No, it couldn’t be called that until it was understood. On second thought, it would be like Millie simply to assume that Jane had been devoured by lions….

What next, then? Professor Myers’ office? Perhaps Mary Rogers would still be there. Perhaps through her Millie could be found…. She hardly dared believe that the office would still be in existence. If it was, maybe she would have the heart to ask for her old job back again.

The building stood where it had always stood, overshadowed on all sides by newer creations which deprived it of even the little sunlight that might ingeniously have filtered down to its windows. Some time this building would give way before the onslaughts of efficiency, and another lithe shining tower would stand over the shadow of these ancient dark foundations.

She walked steadily into the hall, then drew a deep breath and pushed the office door. Her eyes, accustomed to the brightness outside, could hardly pierce the duskiness. Then a cry came from the other side of the room: “Janie!”

It was more like a confused dream than a real experience. Here came Mary, rushing over to her, grabbing both her hands. There sat Miss Perry, behind her ledgers, with an almost warm smile of welcome. And then the door of the inner office opened, and Professor Myers himself came out, bowed, white-haired, looking much older than she had remembered. He stopped short, and ran his hand over his hair.

“Why — why, Miss Carey! Well, Well! Back again from your travels!”

Jane went to greet him, a little shakily. “Yes, I’ve come back.”

“Did you have a pleasant vacation?” he inquired, as though she had been away in the country for a couple of weeks.

“Oh, yes; I certainly did,” she assured him. Vacation! As if the three years — four years — what was it, anyway? — as if all that time had been just a sort of leave of absence from Professor Myers’ dingy little office! Her heart sank.

“And, Miss Carey,” he was saying now, “I really must show you our latest treasure.” He held open the inner door invitingly. On his desk, in a small glass-topped box, an enormous butterfly… breath of azure silk… metallic gleam… rare old Persian vase… the island!

“South America,” he was saying. “Remember that old fellow — what was his name? — Ottocruntz, or something? Well, every entomologist in this country and every other was laughing in their sleeves at him, but he’s brought back the goods. Marvellous creature, isn’t it? I’m keeping it here until it goes to an honorary throne in the Museum. Ought to go into the Metropolitan, instead of the Natural History, as a matter of fact.”

In her terror, Jane clung to the butterfly. Those dead wings, once tremulous and vibrating with life and ecstasy… beauty captured… butterfly triumphant?… other worlds?…

The old man was now beginning to cast about uneasily among the disordered piles of papers on his desk. “Have you — ” he began.

Jane stirred sharply into life. “Yes!” she cried. She picked up his glasses from beside the butterfly box and handed them to him with a small, cynical bow.

“Thank you,” he said patiently. “You know, Miss Carey, I always say that it isn’t so much whether you lose your glasses — ”

A tremor ran through her. “No,” she chimed in quietly, “it’s the finding that matters.”

He nodded with a distant smile. They stood, philosophizing in echoes, a recaptured naiad and a kindly ghost, one on each side of the butterfly which separated them like a symbol of all that had come rushing in between the two since they had stood this same way years ago.

“Well,” he resumed, “you’re coming back to us?”

Jane forced herself to smile. “But would you want me, with Miss Rogers here?”

“Oh, didn’t she tell you? She’s leaving us next month…. Yes, I rather suspect it’s a young man who’s the villain in this piece.” And he smiled the fatherly smile that she remembered. “Of course we want you,” he added.

“Let me think about it,” she said. “I really just dropped in for a visit, this time.”

“Of course, of course. You know, Miss Carey, I was thinking about you just the other day — wishing you could be on hand to help me write my new book.”

“Another!” she exclaimed. “What’s it to be about this time?”

“Butterflies,” he said.

What was it she and Davidson had talked about long ago — something she thought Professor Myers ought to be told and made to understand, about butterflies? But the words eluded her now. She could not even remember what it was that had once seemed so obvious. It was blurred in distant haze.

“But,” she said, smiling, “I don’t know anything at all about butterflies.”

“You don’t have to. I want you to type the manuscript for me, and maybe help me reword some parts of it. There’ll be an enormous index to make, letters to write, and eventually proofs to read. And besides all that, the regular office work. I could pay you pretty well, Miss Carey; in fact, I think I could just about double your old salary.”

“I’ll call you up,” she promised. “I think I’d like to come. Thank you for asking me.” She gazed another moment at the butterfly under the glass. Blue wings hovered in the foreground of her thoughts….

In the outer office, Mary pounced at her again. Miss Perry had gone out. “Jane, where did you go? What did you do? I do so want to hear all about it!”

Jane waved her hand airily. “What’s this I hear about you?” she asked. “That’s much more important. Anybody I know?”

“A classmate of my brother’s. You’ll meet him soon. We’re getting married next month.”

“I’m terribly glad…. Know anything about Millie?”

“Yes, but it isn’t a pretty story,” Mary said.

Jane’s face fell. “She got into trouble?”

“Yes — with a man. She was going to have a baby, and she didn’t have any money. I don’t know what happened to her. She just went off one day, and didn’t come back. I couldn’t keep the place alone, on my pay, and so I moved, too.”

“Mary! And you haven’t any idea where she went?”

The other girl shook her head.

“I wish I knew how to find her,” Jane said.

“I wish you did, too. You could cheer her up as nobody else ever could. It was pretty awful, Jane. She didn’t let on a bit — you know how she is; but I just know she was all broken up. She would cry at night, and try not to let me hear. And you see, she couldn’t dance any more, and lost her job, of course. She was simply stranded, high and dry.”

“Who was the man, anyway?”

Mary shrugged. “She never would tell me anything,” she said.

Jane was silent.

“Where are you living?” Mary asked.

“Nowhere yet,” Jane said. “I’ve got to find a place. Down in the village, I expect.”

“Coming back to work?”

“He’s asked me. I’m to let him know in a few days. He’s going to write a book about butterflies.”

“He’s been swell to me,” Mary said. “I’ve been here ever since you left.”

“He’s the kindest person in the world,” Jane said quietly. “But I wonder how much he knows about butterflies.”

“What do you mean, Janie? He’s studied ’em all his life.”

“Yes, of course,” she agreed quickly. “Well, kid, I’m off to hunt houses. I’ll drop in again — let you know where I live, and all.”

“And tell me your adventures, Jane.”

“Sure, if they’re interesting enough. It’s been swell to see you. Give my love to the lucky devil, and I hope you’ll be all-fired happy…. By the way, what day is it?”

Mary laughed. “Thursday, you crazy nut,” she said. “June 21st, to be exact.”

“Thanks. Time to be thinking about vacations, honeymoons, and all that sort of thing — what?… Well, so long!”

Jane looked for a subway station. There it was — blue light on the corner. It was disgusting still to be able to find your way around New York! Nobody could lose that demon of a subway. Might as well try to push over a granite wall.

She was a little bit particular, as to this matter of a place to live. If her salary was to be twice the old one, she could afford to be particular. Friends were important to her happiness, and she wanted a place where they would be glad to come. She had never quite made up her mind whether your house enticed friends, or friends made your house enticing. However, she would give the house the benefit of the doubt, and choose it carefully.

At last, after long weary walking round about Greenwich Village, and discouraging interviews with grimy proprietors, she stumbled on what she wanted. It was a quietly furnished apartment, with fresh-looking blue curtains, blue dishes in the tiny kitchen, a window-box of geraniums, and enormous windows with big square panes.

“Used to be a studio,” the landlady explained, “one o’ these here artists, you know. Plenty of light, you see — sun, too, mornings.”

The place was pretty and picturesque, in a simple way. There was a small bedroom, leading off the living-room; and in the living-room itself a blue-covered couch that could be unfolded in case of company. The more Jane looked at the big windows, framed in the long curtains, the more she liked the place. Plenty of light! That was certainly a selling point, in New York!…

Davidson’s shoulders were drooping, no doubt about that. He looked more silent and grim than ever. Jane suffered for him. She did not dare ask what sort of day he had had. She knew, all too well.

“I’ve got a place to live in,” she told him. “I think you’ll like it. It’s got windows.”

He stared gloomily. “Who’s going to pay for it?” he mumbled.

She sat down on the floor at his feet, and rested her head on his knees. “I went to see the old professor, too,” she said.


“Well, I can have my job back, if I want it, at twice the old pay.”

“You’re lucky,” he said.

Jane was suffering for him. She had an inkling of how it all must be hurting him, that she could walk into an office and be offered a well-paid job, while he, who wanted so badly to protect and take care of her, could find no work at all. He was tight-lipped and bitter. “I’m glad you’re so clever,” he said. “But if you think I’m going to hang round and be — well, your gigolo — you’re mistaken, that’s all.”

She bit her lips and said nothing. But presently he began to stroke her hair, in the old familiar way; and then he bent down to whisper in her ear: “Sorry! Better luck tomorrow.”

They moved into the new apartment. Davidson came out of his gloom long enough to admire it a little, and help her carry home some groceries from the corner store. That just about exhausted the money he had borrowed from the sailor Wilson. After that he went off downtown again; and then, because sometimes two can laugh more easily than one, Jane telephoned Margaret Kingsley to come and have lunch with her.

“Some time,” Margaret said, “I do wish you’d tell me the story. How it began, the shipwreck, the whole thing. And I’m curious about that ring.” She pointed to the plain dark circlet of ebony, with its tiny carved figures, that Jane always wore — that was, to her, sacred.

“Would you believe it, Marg?”

“I mightn’t believe all of it. It would probably sound too good to be true. But I want to hear it, anyway. It’ll make a marvellous tale.”

“What worries me,” Jane said, “is that I’m afraid it’s coming to an end, and not a particularly happy one.”

“Stories don’t end happily in life,” Margaret asserted. “The better the beginning, the worse the end.”

“Don’t be morbid!” Jane warned. “I’m depressed enough already. You see, I’m afraid I’m losing my lover.”

Margaret sat very still, almost without breathing. Then, in a queer small voice: “I lost one once,” she said. “Hurts, doesn’t it?”

Davidson came in late that afternoon. The droop to his shoulders was more pronounced, and his mouth was grim. “God, Jane, this is a racket,” he said after a while. “There just isn’t a job in New York.”

She left the peas on the small stove to take care of themselves. Davidson needed her more than they did.

“You know what I’ve got to do?” he went on. “Well, there’s no use hanging round here any longer — I’ve got to go to sea again.”

She flinched, but said nothing. She had a pretty fair conception of what he was up against. No matter where he turned he faced brutal conflict. He would have been willing to sacrifice his own feelings, overcome his repugnance, and accept any job, however hateful, that would keep him near Jane; but such a job was not to be found. Going to sea meant even a greater sacrifice, involving both of them. And yet Jane was sure that, in spite of her need for him and his longing to keep and protect her, the deep subtle call of his old profession was strong, almost like the instinct of life itself. She could offer him nothing to offset it except herself and the dismal prospect of prolonged emasculating idleness.

She understood how hopeless it was to argue with the question. A dull pain dragged slowly through her, associated with a burning greenish odor from the stove. She slipped away to rescue the peas. The floor underfoot was a blur, and her hands were ice-cold.

But after supper there was another shock in store for her. “You see, I met an old shipmate of mine this morning,” he told her. “Mate of a freighter — Nelson Line. He put in a word for me aboard and — well, I’d never have got the job without him, and I didn’t dare miss the chance. We sail tomorrow night, Jane.”

She smiled forlornly. “I thought you hated steamers,” she said.

“I do,” he admitted gloomily. “But what am I to do? There’s nothing else; and obviously I can’t get a job ashore. That’s the mean thing about the sea, Jane. A chap who’s gone to sea is branded. Can’t do anything else, ever, even if he wants to — nobody’ll take him. I’d have been better off if I’d learned shoe-making,” he said bitterly.

“Where’s this freighter going to?” Jane wanted to know.

“I’ll get paid off in Seattle.”

“And then?”

“I know that country, and have a few friends there. There’s a schooner — she runs to Hawaii with lumber. I know a chap who makes his living with a little motor-boat, salmon-fishing summers off Alaska. I want to see if there’s anything in that. And there’s a trading-schooner — I sailed in her once — she goes up into the Arctic Circle summers, to trade with the Eskimos.”

“But — ” Jane began fearfully.

“Janie, if I work anything out there, you shall come out to me. If I don’t, I’ll come back.”

“I rather like that salmon-fishing idea,” she said. “Don’t you?”

“I don’t know anything about it.”

“If you had a boat,” she persisted, “could I come with you?”

“Oh, Janie, you’re always looking so far ahead!”

“I have to. If I looked just at the immediate future, I wouldn’t want to live.”

He whipped his big arms around her so fiercely that he hurt her. “You’ve got to live,” he told her almost angrily. “And you’ve got to be happy. Don’t you see? Otherwise, you make all my failures worse. Life would be unbearable. I need you. You’ve got to help me!”

She had never seen him violent and tortured; she loved him in this pain more than she had ever loved him. She was glad that his embrace was hurting her; physical pain was a relief. Somewhere in her mind was the consciousness that his unhappiness was in a way her fault; without her, his life would still have been a problem, but it would not have approached this present insidious complexity. Till now, their relation had meant only happiness to both of them. The world had changed that. They were now forced to serve unwillingly as each other’s torturers…. Through all this was the undercurrent of her irrelevant feminine pride in him: she was glad his shoulders were so wide, his arms so strong.

“Of course I’m going to help you,” she told him. “I shall work, and save my money, and you do the same, and it’ll be no time before we’ll have enough to buy a fishing-boat, or carry out any other scheme you think up.”

He kissed her, and her mouth was twisted with the pleasure of it. She longed unspeakably for his love.

“You aren’t afraid, are you?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t feel any too brave,” she confessed.

“I don’t believe I’d want you to. I suspect that awfully brave people are heartless. You’re better: acting brave when you aren’t — sweet coward!… You aren’t afraid I won’t come back?”

She shook her head.

“I couldn’t leave you,” he said. “You’re mine, part of me. I’ll never leave you,” he repeated roughly. “My old shell, yes; but my heart and soul, the most of me and the best of me — no, no.”

“I love your shell, too.”

“It isn’t worth much,” he said. “I can’t even earn a living.”

“You could live with me, you know,” she muttered.

“And let you support me? That would be fine, wouldn’t it?… No, Janie, we’re going to do better, only it’ll take time.”

“And strength,” she added.

He sighed. “We’re not going to talk about this any more. Our shells have to forget it, because this is the last time they can be together — for a while. You’re beautiful when you’re sad, Jane. But then, you’re always more beautiful than anything on earth.”

“Except the island,” she said.

“To me you are the island. You make it real.”

She lay in his arms, and at each breath their bodies were pressed together.

“The island,” he repeated. “We have that always, whatever happens to us now. Nobody can hurt that, or take it away from us.”


“Let’s think about it. The hill — ”

“The butterflies — ” she said.

“Fireflies… stars…”

Our stars!”

He was right. It was all alive, more vivid than ever — a vision, a dream, but strangely more real even than reality.

“Janie, there’s a star outside the window.”

“Not an electric light?”

“A star,” he repeated. “One of the ones that married us.”

“And there was the waterfall,” Jane pursued.

“You standing in it,” he added.

“You chasing me in the wind and the flowers,” she said.

“And catching you — kissing you — ”

She was a wild white wave, combing in long ecstasy higher and higher to shatter in iridescent surf; then ebbing back, ebbing, merging at last into the sea.

Chapter XIV…

Lost Island, part 14

“XV” (really Chapter XIV, I think), pp. 194 – 212 of Lost Island. Chapter I is here.

He was gone. There were some facts you could deny, or argue with, or ignore, but there was nothing to do about this one, except coldly look it between the eyes and say: “I’m not afraid of you.”

But Jane was afraid. When you were one with another human being, and suddenly were made to drift about and act as an independent unit, what happened? Where and who were you then?

The first few days of his absence had taken an amusing, almost entertaining aspect. For she was constantly turning to him in all the varied, multitudinous details of life. She would forget he was away; she could not keep the fact in mind. Sometimes she laughed aloud at this — and as she laughed, turned to share its grim humor with him.

Then these incidents became painful and exasperating. Instead of sudden stabs of loneliness which had come at intervals in the beginning, she was haunted by an almost unceasing ache, alternating with deadly weariness. Without him, the city was more alarming than ever. Alone in her apartment, she had moments of real terror. On the island she had never minded darkness and isolation, the rumbling of the sea, rustling of leaves, odd sounds made by forest creatures. But here the huge grumble of traffic kept her awake; she flinched when the windows shook with it. And no Millie to keep her company. She considered finding some other congenial room-mate, but rejected the idea: some time Davidson would come back, and he must be able to come freely to stay with her. So she went on by herself, fighting the city, wrestling with her loneliness, and by a miracle of perseverance holding her own.

Davidson wrote to her sometimes — short, curiously worded letters — mere skeletons of thoughts, with their fabric left to her understanding. He wrote in little phrases separated by curved dashes. From anyone else she would have thought it a barbaric manner of writing, but from him she adored it. Mostly these were dashed off hastily at sea, sometimes to be posted within a few minutes. “Just coming into San So-and-So — funny little place — in fact it can’t really be called a place — just a pier with a light on the end — to keep one from walking off I suppose — I love you.”

Every once in a while a much longer letter would come. She soon learned that these were his ‘longshore letters, written when he had perhaps an entire evening at his disposal. Even they did not tell her anything very concrete about what he was doing, and the chronological order of events in his life.  He simply assumed that it would not be interesting to her, since to him it was commonplace enough. He would recount scattered pieces of what had happened since he had written last, and then dive into philosophical meditations and humorous descriptions.

She was glad when old friends began showing up, one by one. Some of them had never heard that she had gone away, and others supposed that she was dead or had forgotten them. Before the Annie Marlow adventure, her friends had been the one part of New York life that had made her happy. They were a diverse crowd. There were young married people, lonely girls struggling with their first jobs, boys trying to work their way through Columbia, girls who had gone to business school with Jane when she first came to New York. Most of them were hard up or making bad weather of it in some way: she had made few contacts with the idle rich.

People confided in Jane. Before she had been back in the city very long she had heard a good many sorrowful tales, and several little tangled situations had been put tenderly into her hands. People’s difficulties had always secretly astounded her, because she was simple at heart, and believed in simplicity. Now they seemed even more absurd and out of place. Perhaps that explained her success in handling these matters: she never took them quite seriously, but always with a touch of secret humor, while no one suspected that she was not solemn as a judge. In a way that was what they made of her, she reflected: a friendly and unofficial judge. She felt that she could fill the post more ably now, because of Davidson and the stars, and the sea that had stamped its rhythm upon her heart.

The office was the same as always. Miss Perry sat eternally at her desk, wiry and grayish, with impersonal eyes. Like Professor Myers, she seemed to have aged. The whole office and everyone in it appeared dustier than ever. And the horrible part of it all was that these small changes were merely superficial, and by their nature served only to intensify the dismal sameness that went on underneath. Every now and then she would be overwhelmed by an odd sensation, as though, like the light princess in the fairy tale, she had lost her gravity. Perhaps the most surprising fact was that she had been able to readapt herself to this old life, even painfully and with difficulty. It was wrong. She and the office should both have undergone such a transformation that their reunion would have been impossible. Instead of which, here she was with nothing but an ebony ring and a few rainbow streamers around her shoulders to prove that Lost Island and Davidson had ever existed. The ring was part of her flesh. As for the rainbows — well, they were pretty ragged, pretty battered, and in any event not suitable to wear to a respectable job. Every now and then she would put a few pieces into the trash basket…. She was almost sure that never again would she discuss dreams with Miss Perry.

New York had all the same old things wrong with it. The same gods, Money and Speed. If you refused to bow before those altars, it was too bad for you, that was all. You lived in the murk, with never a really fresh piece of wind or a first-hand ray of sunlight. It was no wonder people sometimes lost their heads, and drank and dissipated.

Jane was living in two worlds: a shadowy, dim one superposed on a background of brightness and gleam. Sometimes these made war. Her hardest job was to keep them reconciled, to make each one of them give her something of value. The one thing that never failed to amuse her and keep her busy, was this interest she took in people. She could even get a kick out of the old game of watching faces in the subway, although that tended to be a depressing rather than a stimulating game. Rows of fat business men behind newspapers, all devastatingly alike. The women were possibly a shade better, though it was a scant shade. Subway men certainly put the species to shame. There were pale effeminate creatures, whom you had to look at twice to be sure they weren’t girls; short pudgy Jews in striped shirts; strange droopy men with mustaches. Only once a week, or twice in rare weeks, you caught a glimpse of a brave upstanding creature with an honest gleam in his eyes. Another interesting fact about subways was that people headed for different destinations differed hugely. You could make quite a sociological study of that, if you could stand the diverse smells.

She would gladly have traded all her friends, old and new, to be with Davidson. She was more aware of him now than when he had been constantly with her. Overshadowing everything she did, following her wherever she went, was her longing for him. At first this ghost was very definitely Davidson, with his moody eyes and his characteristic walk, that looked so leisurely, and a little awkward, and was really so fast. And then, as time wore on, she could no longer say for sure that it was he, that it was anyone at all; it was just a longing. She had always tried to be honest with herself, and she was not too old-fashioned to question whether this longing might not be simply for companionship, and love, rather than for some one person whom she could not have. After all, nearly a year had gone by….

Her friends took it for granted that she was just about the happiest creature on earth. She had established herself with them in that capacity, and nothing she did could change their conception of her. When she was quiet and serious, they never suspected her. That was just Janie’s way. She was, as far as they were concerned, a known quantity. This was humorous to her and a little painful at times, for although she liked to keep within the protection of her secret, she sometimes felt a human pang because they did not understand. Her heart was cold around the edges, and no one knew; sometimes it froze into a small sharp icicle, like a waterfall in winter time.

Margaret Kingsley came nearer than anyone else to understanding. Sometimes the two girls had lunch together; but lunch was crowded and unsatisfactory. More often Margaret would meet Jane outside the office after work, and they would cook supper in Jane’s kitchenette; afterwards go to a show, or just sit talking.

“I have more fun with you, Jane, than with any of my boy friends — not that that’s saying much.”

“They must be pretty awful.”

“Indescribable,” Margaret said. “What are the prospects of your having one some time?”

“Well, I’m just getting round to the idea that it might be fun.”

“Atta girl! Don’t stay married to a ghost. Not healthy.”

“Sounds pretty cold,” Jane admitted. “Sounds almost like pneumonia. But you know, I think you’re married to one, yourself.”

“Maybe. But it doesn’t pay. I know that’s true, even if I don’t practice what I preach. Jane, I haven’t really enjoyed anything since — except you — and it was nearly three years ago…. What’s the matter with love, that it always goes so wrong? Either they are cruel to each other, or else get bored to extinction.”

“I don’t think there’s anything the matter with love,” Jane said. “Only civilization has kind of dressed it up in plate-glass armor, and invested it with some sort of mystery that has no particular business to be there. We’re hampered and fettered with the good old iron shackles of tradition, inhibition, et al., and then we’re surprised when we trip and fall down and hurt ourselves. And then, I think people get so mixed up with a kind of dreamy-eyed mock romance of their own invention that they can’t tell that from the real article. They play a game, thinking it’s sincere. A girl thinks any man is her rightful, one-and-only mate if he’s a bit convincing and a bit mock-romantic. And any poor wretch can be that. They learn it from the movies, and get it down pretty pat.”

“You had an island,” Margaret said.

“Yes — that was my luck.”

“Even if I should ever get shipwrecked,” the other girl went on, “it wouldn’t be with the right man. It would be the fat old steward, I’m sure. Or else the island would turn out to be a barren coral reef.”

“You’re too romantic,” Jane said.

“Romantic! What do you mean?”

“Well, when people find life unexciting, as you seem to, it’s sometimes because they themselves are way off in gold clouds, looking down snootily upon this little ash-heap of an earth, and thumbing their noses at it, not even trying to get properly acquainted with it. Of course it looks like an ash-heap, at that distance.”

“It’s sort of hard not to turn up your nose at life,” Margaret said. “Especially when it’s hurt you. Sort of a defense.”

“Maybe it’s a defense,” Jane said, “but I don’t believe it’s a good one…. You don’t mind my saying this, do you?”

“Shoot, kid!”

“You don’t have to take me seriously, anyhow. But that kind of defense — shutting yourself up in a castle, and thumbing your nose between the bars — doesn’t hurt the world a bit, after all. The world doesn’t even know about it. You want revenge, but you’re just wasting your energy; you’re just hurting and limiting yourself.”

“I know that, sort of subconsciously,” Margaret admitted. “What’s the secret of your own resilience, Jane?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s no secret. My friends help. You help, for one. I’m interested in people. And I have a tendency to laugh. I know I’d get a kick out of posing in corsets, or selling sausages. I like to think I can get some sort of a kick out of most anything. I think I’m better at that than I used to be. Takes practice, and you have to try a little. If you don’t care about people, there are other surprising phenomena, such as tadpoles growing up to be frogs, or the fact that light comes in waves, or the question of space being infinite, or the birth control movement. And little things — that you can’t possibly see from your castle. You’ve known me long enough to know what I mean. Today I saw a dirty kitten playing with a broom in a grocery store. It made me laugh out loud. The other day I walked out to the Washington bridge, and there was a perfectly passable sunset. There are lots of things: a glass of wine, maybe, or a good tune on a neighbor’s radio, a new bud on my geraniums, an evening with you.”

“You seem to have doped it out pretty well. You make me feel a bit ashamed.”

“Oh, it only seems to run smoothly because I’ve trained it to, Marg. Hard work, of course. If I were in your shoes, looking out of that castle window, I’d buy a telescope. You’d see some pretty amusing things, if you’d only set yourself a different scale.”

“What would you do, Jane, if you had my dumb pack of boy friends?”

“Oh, come now! Everybody has a spark or two somewhere. Something he’s interested in, or can do well, or likes to talk about. Just hunt around till you find the spark. Then blow on it…. Oh heck, let’s not talk philosophy any more.”

“But you’re so good at it.”

“Do I really help any?”

“Of course you do! You’re the sanest, most practical creature I ever ran into.”

“Well, you help me, too,” Jane said. “You’ve an uncanny feeling for clothes — line and color. I’m dressing a hundred per cent better since I knew you.”

“That’s pretty superficial help,” Margaret said.

“Nothing is superficial that makes you a well-balanced person,” Jane asserted. “Besides, people ought to supplement each other, exactly as you and I are doing. I can get a kick out of that in itself. Just come down off your beloved Olympus, and you will, too.”…

A few days later, at five o’clock, Jane was standing outside the door of the building her office was in. The city was just lighting up. A murmur, forever growing to a roar and then subsiding, like a gigantic pulse: countless fragments of humanity, the chorus of millions of voices, the tired beating of millions of heels against the pavements, the great varied streams of traffic….


This voice came from a group of people on the steps, some of whom were coming out in a hurry, and others trying to force their way in. She saw a young man pushing toward her, with light brown curling hair and eyes of rare shining blue.

“Jane! Gosh all hemlocks, is it you?”

“Wait a minute! Take it easy!” she commanded. “I can’t think…”

He grabbed her arm. “Jane!” he exclaimed again.

“Wait… oh, I know…! Heather!… Johnny!”

And right there, on the steps of the building, in the crowd, he flung his arms around her and kissed her, laughing, as if he hadn’t kissed anyone for a hundred years.

“You old parachute! Wherever did you drop from?”

“Where did you drop from, you’d better say, Jane. I’ve been hunting you for years. Did you get lost in a cloud, or what? I had an address once. I kept writing there, and all my letters came back.” He was talking so fast and eagerly that his words fell over one another.

“I don’t know where to begin, John. But let’s go home and talk — ”

“All right!” he put in.

“And I’ll tell you the tale of my life, and you’ll tell me yours. How’s your father, and Heather?”

“Well, I’m afraid Father’s not so young as he used to be — can’t do so much; but Heather’s alive and kicking,” he added with a sudden burst of enthusiasm.

“You look as young as ever, John — in fact, younger.”

“I am. Why wouldn’t I be. I’ve found you!”

“Life’s been treating you well, what?”

“Except for not being able to find you.”

“Oh, forget me, you liar! What have you been doing with yourself? Married?”

“Ye Gods, of course not! Do I look like it? Do I sound like it?”

“Well, not exactly.”

“Are you?”

“Well, no.”


“So what!” said Jane.

“So I think I’ll kiss you again,” he said…. “By the way, I’ve got a car some place. Which way is west, Janie?”

“A whole car of your own, you plutocrat?”

“Well, a whole Ford…. Here! Maybe this is it.”

They worked their way slowly uptown. Whenever they came to a red traffic-light, John kissed her. “Damn!” he would say, “it’s going green!” or “Hurrah! We’ll never make this one!”

Jane was much too weak with laughter to protest, even if she had wanted to. Between traffic-lights she wangled out of him bits of his own history.

“…It isn’t very interesting, but you see old Aunt Angeline kicked the bucket and left me quite a nest-egg.”

“Atta girl!” said Jane. “Who’d have thunk it of her?”

“You disrespectful wench! You might at least thank her for my having a Ford.”

“So now you’re a gentleman of leisure, is that it?”

“Well, not exactly. I’ve got an income that I can’t quite live on, so I piece it out by — well, I’ve been doing a bit of writing, to tell the truth. Not very good, though. Published a few articles and a story, and I’ve got a book in my head.”

“Sounds good to me!”

“Think so? Well, you know what I do? I have a rather swell sort of life. Bum around — mountains, mostly — you know how I always loved mountains, Janie. And you — you loved them, too.”

She turned to him, radiant. “Why, you remember a lot about me, don’t you? You remember that mountains were my God.”

“I should say I do! Remember the time — we were just little kids then — and we climbed Whitney Hill to pick blueberries, and we looked off at the White Mountains, and you said: ‘Gee, Johnny, I don’t know about God, and I don’t think I believe in Him, but I sure believe in mountains.'”

Jane laughed joyously. “Oh, Lord, what times we had! All those quaint ideas that we were so solemn about. They were secrets, too, weren’t they? We never dared tell anyone else. But you and I always understood.”

“Well, I’m faithful. I stick to mountains most of the time, now. I hike all over the country, and climb everything in sight. Pack on my back, a string of Knorr’s pea soup sticks round my belt, and off I go, for weeks and months at a stretch.”

“Regular gipsy, what?”

“Yes, and you know what? I’ve got the grandest little log cabin in Maine, near Katahdin. Enormous fireplace, books. Sometimes I spend a whole winter there, writing, reading, tramping. How I’ve longed to show you that place, Janie! Fetch my wood in from the forest — trees all snowy — tracks of little animals. You’d love it. Tramp fifteen miles for provisions. I couldn’t ever live long out of the wilds. It’s in my bones…. Then every once in a while I put on a collar and come to town, see a show, talk to a publisher or two, see you.”

He was like a little boy in his vigor and enthusiasm. “Tell you how it is,” he ran on. “I couldn’t go on living an ordinary sort of life, you see. I was scared I’d get caught in the machine — you know — The Machine, and all that. Had a job in Portland once. Nearly finished me…. There’s been only one thing wrong, as a matter of fact. I missed you so, Janie. I wanted the kid I used to pick blueberries with. I kept thinking of you with your hair flying in the wind, and the way you laughed, and the way you loved butterflies, and how you were the grandest pal on earth, and what a grand runner you were. I didn’t know — until you went away after that Charlie business….”

“I thought of you, too, Johnny.”

“Did you? he asked eagerly. “You did!”

“Yes, I thought of you saying: ‘Why doon’t ye pin a note on the duck, Janie? If Heather’s aroond, Andra’s no far awa’.”

“Oh, Jane, I’m glad you thought of me, even if it was just something ridiculous. Tell me some of yours now. I just bet you’ve a yarn to spin!” His eyes were shining.

“I bought a red skirt,” she said solemnly. “That sums it up.”

“Hope you didn’t pay too much for it. Where is it now?”

“Well, I left most of it on an island. You see, I got shipwrecked. That’s why I didn’t get your letters.”

“What an imagination!”

“No, honest!”

“Well, hadn’t we better get you another?”

“Another island?”

“Sure, if you like. I really meant another red skirt. Become you very well.”

“You seem to understand,” said Jane.

“Oh, sure, in my scatter-brained way. I know you meant it as a symbol of fun and freedom, and that something happened to it. Well, I’m glad you had it. It was time. Let’s have some more!”

“You bet!”

“Like to dance?”

For a minute she held her breath. Then suddenly: “John — that’s it!” she exclaimed.

“What’s what?… Let’s go slow, Ford — miss this light.”

“I knew there was something. Ever since I got back from that island — ”

“Loon Island!” he chuckled.

“I’ve known there was something I wanted, and in the city. I couldn’t think… Dancing — that was it! Rhythm and jazz.”

“Everybody needs that, if they’re any sort of creature at all,” said John. “It’s in the bones. Maybe you’ve been in love. Realize it more then. Of course you’ve been in love! Anybody so alive — ”

“And so beautiful — ” she put in.

“Of course! You were in love with me, really, all the time; only it probably had another name.”

“It certainly did,” Jane agreed dryly.

“Of course,” John said, with every appearance of solemnity. “Well, a-dancing we will go.”

“You seem to know a lot about me,” Jane said.

“Does that annoy you?”

“No, amuses me.”

“Of course I know a lot about you. Didn’t we climb Whitney Hill together and pick blueberries?”

“What’s far more important, we talked about God,” said Jane.

“One thing I know about you is that you adore to be kissed. Don’t you?”

“How am I supposed to answer that?”

“It doesn’t matter how you answer. It’s true, anyway. When you were standing out there on the office steps, you were simply dying to be kissed, weren’t you?”

“Not necessarily by you.”

“Oh, I know that; but even I was better than nobody, wasn’t I?”

“Is that why you promptly did?”

“Sure; I’m a gentleman.”

“So what!”

“Don’t you know? A gentleman is one who always pleases the lady…. Oh, don’t bother to say it. I know you aren’t a lady.”

All of a sudden a few tears of fierce relief welled up into Jane’s eyes, in the midst of her laughter.

With dancing came even greater relief. Either she had forgotten, or else, as John suggested, had never known its fascination. She had not realized the intricate splendor of jazz, with its thousands of scintillating tricks that made the senses stand on tiptoe with pleasure. They whirled, dipped, swung their feet back and forth, until Jane practically lost all sense of the polished floor beneath them; for all she knew, they might be dancing in space, unbound by any gravitational laws. If ever she had been unhappy, or had any trouble or worry of any kind, it was utterly erased now — drowned in primitive rivers of music.

“You haven’t had enough fun lately,” John said.

“Is that so obvious?”

“Yes. You dance desperately, as if it were the last dance on earth. You’re hungry. You’ve been taking life too dismally hard.”


“You’ve been thinking,” he said accusingly.

“Is that so bad?”

“Janie, if you value your happiness, don’t ever think!”

“How does one stop?”

“I’ll see that you don’t have time for it any more,” he said.

“Just do this once in a while, and I won’t take life hard.”

“And buy a new dress,” he said.

“Money, John!”

“Buy one anyway. Let me give it to you. I’d love to, as a sort of welcome-home present…. Don’t say no, because think what a kick it would give me.”

“Do you really think clothes make a difference?”

“Didn’t you hear me say you take life too hard? I want you to be light-headed and frivolous, for a change. I want you to get a kick out of superficial things. I’d adore you in something new and sparkly, showing off your backbone. I bet you’ve got a swell back, with muscles.”

“Muscles aren’t in style,” said Jane.

“That’s because they’re rare articles.”

“John, I never knew how much I loved to dance.”

“That’s easy to explain. You never danced with me.”

“You’re pretty good, I have to admit.”

“You’re in love with me, you see.”

“Oh, am I?”


They tried a hundred old steps, devised new combinations of them, changed abruptly from slow and sedate to hilarious and abandoned. They danced patterns around the glass pillars of the ballroom; they slid and skipped and skidded, experimented with new positions; sometimes they danced with the music, and sometimes in utter defiance of it; every now and then they broke into spontaneous, uncontrollable laughter, like schoolchildren.

Once Jane thought of Davidson, and it occurred to her that he was a living violation of everything John was dinning into her ears. He, too, might be happier if he would dance now and then. The thought of the tall sailor dancing was so incongruous that she chuckled aloud; and at the same time another part of her life, Davidson’s, was shocked by that chuckle. The Jane dancing so ecstatically in John’s arms, glad to let him kiss her lips in the corners of the room, brimming over with delight at the pleasure of flirting with him, was another Jane, certainly, who had little, if anything, to do with Davidson’s Jane. He would hate and despise everything she was doing tonight. She knew this, and yet curiously she had no sense that she was in any way disloyal to him. When you were two or three kinds of person at once, capable of enjoying two or three unrelated kinds of life, there was no reason why you should not live two or three separate lives — just as long as you carefully kept them separate!

At midnight they strolled over to the bar and drank a good many little sparkling glasses of Amontillado. It warmed them even more than the dancing had done; it lit Jane’s cheeks a little, made her eyes sparkle, and wrapped the room in golden mist. When they waltzed, it seemed that she was coming close to the motions of a swallow, soaring and skimming, touching the tops of waves. But now it was dancing with John, and not the dancing itself, that was exciting. The pressure of his hand on her back made her tingle; her fingers were suddenly aware that they liked to curl around his hand.

“If you tell me once more that I love you, I might believe it,” she warned him. “You’d better look out.”

“That would be hell, wouldn’t it?”

Their dancing became more and more a unison of movement; they pressed closer together, forgetting the separate steps, forgetting the music itself, in the pleasure of that embrace. And when the music stopped, they went on dancing. Somebody, seeing their rapt faces, laughed coarsely.

John put her into her coat, and walked her outside. Cold night wind made her hot face sting, ruffled her hair, made her feel wider awake than she had ever felt in her life. It was three o’clock, and the streets were almost deserted. Only an occasional light shone out from the enormous sides of buildings that flared up into the dark.

“New York at its best,” said John.

In her apartment, he took her in his arms again — not playfully. “I’ve loved you all my life,” he said.

“What sweeping statements you make!”

“Well, how about you?”

“It had another name,” she said mockingly.

“Yes, but now?”

“Right now — I love you,” she told him.

“I think you’d better let me stay tonight.”

“There’s not much of it left,” she retorted.

“You’d better let me stay. It’s what all our dancing has been leading to.”

“Of course, but — ”

“You’d be miserable if I didn’t, you know.”

“As a matter of fact, I’d probably fall asleep in two minutes,” she told him.

“I don’t believe it. And anyway, I’d be miserable. And after all, I’ve loved you all my life.”

“You’d better let me think about it.”

“Wrong, Janie! You shouldn’t ever think. And anyway, loving isn’t something to be thought about. It’s a need of the heart and the body. It’s a beautiful need, and ought to be fulfilled. It only gets ugly when it isn’t fulfilled.”

She looked squarely into his blue eyes, and laughed a little.

“Nothing that’s beautiful is ever wrong,” he said.

“You glorious pagan! I quite agree with you.”

“You’re a pagan, too,” he said. “I knew you would be, after you got away from Maine and Charlie, and had a chance. That’s why I’ve hunted you so madly.”

“I’m awfully glad you’ve found me,” she confessed simply. “You’ve made me happy. And if you really want to love me — here I am.”

Chapter XV…

Lost Island, part 15

Chapter “XVI” (should be “XV,” I think) of Lost Island, pp. 213 – 228. Chapter I here.

John apparently hadn’t the slightest intentions of ever leaving New York. He lived in a cheap hotel room which he rented by the week; and he attended to his business with publishers day after day. He would refer, in a confidential, mysterious tone, to his “Business with Publishers.” As to its exact nature, Jane was quite in the dark. But in any event, that was the least of her worries.

In fact, John was pretty complicating, even if he was a Godsend. Nothing in all her varied philosophies was quite adequate to rationalize him. After several glasses of sherry, the two-lives theory sounded good; in the cold gray dawn, however, it looked more like plain selfishness. The whole thing had been pretty sudden, anyhow; she could not adjust herself to it. One day she was Davidson’s — Davidson possessed her, heart and soul and body. The next day — she was still Davidson’s, and also John’s. Which was not reasonable. She agreed entirely with John, that nothing beautiful could be wrong. But that sword cut two ways: nothing wrong could be beautiful. If it was wrong to hurt people, then this was wrong, for it would hurt Davidson. Better to starve herself? Starved, she wouldn’t be of so much use to Davidson…. And so on, round and round.

In the mean time, she was impelled deeper and deeper into this conflict, which was at least an exciting and vital conflict, and therefore fun. She saw a great deal of John, and he never failed to amuse and delight her. They lunched together, perching on stools and giggling over their ice cream sodas; they wined and dined, saw shows, kissed at the red lights. And danced. At least twice a week, often three times, they danced.

One Saturday afternoon, he insisted on going shopping with her while she bought a dress. This was to make sure that he would approve of it. Of course he did nothing but hamper progress. He delighted at the same time that he infuriated the shop girls. He would stand off a little, as Jane appeared in some sparkling creation, and tilt his head critically from side to side, wrinkling his nose in perplexity. Jane would burst out laughing uncontrollably. “Nope! Nope!” he would say finally. “Won’t do. Off with it!”

“Your husband seems to have his own ideas,” one saleslady acidly remarked.

In about the fourth shop, Jane walked out of the dressing room in a glittering sheath of gold mesh that fell to the floor in an intricate graceful cascade. A deep swirling cape reached almost to the waist, and was held together on one shoulder by a blazing blue clip shaped like a butterfly.

The expression of approval on John’s face was now almost as ludicrous as his disapproval had been before. Jane turned slowly around for him, and his approval increased. “But,” he said at last, in awed tones, “I wanted you to show off your backbone.”

Jane unclasped the butterfly, and the gleaming cape fell with a faint rustle. The front of the dress was held up by a slender gold loop around her neck. Her back and shoulders were bare.

John’s eyes were very big. “‘S wonderful!” he exclaimed softly. Then he beckoned to the salesgirl, and whispered: “How much does it cost?”

This dress was the first that had ever meant anything to Jane; and she loved it because it symbolized new discoveries in life: it symbolized the glamour of music, of rhythm, of dancing; it symbolized patterns of colored lights, and glass pillars reflecting them iridescently — John’s part of her life, which was magical and exciting, even if it was a conflict. She knew intuitively that Davidson would hate that dress. He would think she looked like a prostitute in it, and he would say so. She felt sorry, all at once, that he couldn’t share these things that were beginning to mean so much to her. The contrast between the two men, her lovers, was amusing. In reality John was only three or four years younger, yet the difference might easily have been three times as great. He was so boyish and enthusiastic, spontaneously ready to be amused by anything at all, happy-go-lucky; while Davidson was quiet and brooding, moody, sensitive and stern, and intensely emotional in an altogether different way…. Give up John? Whatever happened, she couldn’t do that. And they went on dancing….

Margaret Kingsley met him, and approved whole-heartedly. “If I didn’t love you, Janie, I’d go out to vamp him myself.”

“Go ahead!” Jane suggested. “Don’t mind me, Marg.”

“But aren’t you nuts about him?”

“Sure — in a way.”

Margaret shook her finger in reproof. “Mrs. Ghost!” she mocked softly. “He’s holding you down.”

“You’d be surprised how little he’s holding me down,” Jane assured her.

“Well! That sounds interesting.”

“Of course I love Johnny,” Jane told her. “In a different way, that’s all. I can’t take him too seriously. He wouldn’t want me to. It isn’t like that.”

Sometimes Margaret dug up one of the boy friends who seemed to her so unexciting, and the four went dancing together. On one of these occasions, Jane coralled Margaret between dances.

“Marg, remember what I said about everybody having a spark somewhere?” she asked.

“Good Lord, Jane, don’t tell me Freddy has one!”

“Of course he has. I found it in just one dance. It’s photography.”

Margaret made a weary gesture. “Oh, I knew that!” she exclaimed. “And of all the dumb — ”

“Now listen here, Madam Olympus! He’s amusing as hell about it. He was telling me how he made himself a darkroom in the attic; how he tried to pipe running water into it, and nearly flooded the house, thereby getting himself in so bad with the family that he’s had to conduct his experiments in secret ever since. And did you know that on a package of a certain kind of film it says: ‘Open in total darkness. Instructions inside’? How’s that?… You ought to go to his place some evening and watch him work. He’s already invited me, by the way. That kid’s an artist. Why don’t you come down off the mountains? Does the air in the high altitudes agree with you, or something?”

Margaret sighed. “You’re right, Janie; gosh, how I envy the way you get on!”

But there was a great deal in Jane’s daily existence that was pretty far removed from fun.

One evening trouble came over the telephone. “Hello, Jane Carey,” said a voice that was only half familiar. “You don’t know?… Gawd, is it that bad? Why, I’d recconize your vocalizin’ any place.”


“Uh-huh. The same, sweetheart.”

“Where are you? I want to see you.”

“Nerts to you. You can’t see me, kid. I just want to tell you something.”

“But Millie, I must see you!”

“Didncha hear me say nerts? Listen! It was me took your dough, and I’m gonna pay it back. Started an account in your holy name the other day.”

“Millie, I don’t give a hang about the money. I just want to see you. What are you doing?”

“Never you mind about that, honey. What are you doing, by the way? And how did the jolly ol’ lions treat you?”

“If you knew where I am, why didn’t you phone long ago, Millie?”

“Well, I just happened to see you in the book tonight.”

“Won’t you come to see me?” Jane pleaded.

“Can’t we be quits, Janie? Can’t you lemme alone? You’d just preach at me, or something. Well, I don’t wanna be preached at, see? Maybe I’m happy just like I am. Maybe I wanna go alone.”

Jane changed her tone. “Go plumb to hell for all I care,” she said. “I loathe preaching, and wouldn’t waste my voice on you if I got paid. I’d just like to see you. Can’t you get that through your dense cranium?”

Millie chuckled a little. “Now you’re beginning to sound like you,” she said. “Oh, I dunno. I’ll think it over.”

Jane felt that she was on the right track. “Well, never mind; don’t come if you don’t want to,” she said.

“I’ll come,” Millie said, and hung up abruptly.

It was a good many days later that she came, late at night, and furtively. “Anybody here?” were the first words she said, as she thrust her tangle of black curls inside the door.

Jane fairly hauled her inside and hugged her in a bear-like embrace. “My ribs!” Millie protested. “Hear that crack? Ouch!”

Jane thrust her off a little and looked at her familiar face. Only — it wasn’t quite familiar. The plucked eye-brows were the same, and the war-paint — a little more war-paint, if anything; but her cheeks were thinner, and her eyes troubled. She was wearing a tight black satin dress, with silver trimming, and one of her arms jingled with assorted bracelets. She positively reeked of cheap perfumery. Her black pumps had silver heels.

“Thought you wouldn’t like it,” Millie said, half-defiantly, as she stared back. “But it’s your own fault, you know.”

“You nut, I’m tickled silly!”

“Cut out the sentiment, and give an account of yourself,” Millie insisted. “Couldn’t you even send an old pal a post-card?”

“I got shipwrecked,” Jane began.

“Shipwrecked, your grandmother! Did you get your backbone broke, too?”

“Damn near.”

“Shipwrecked!” Millie mocked. “That’s a hell of a note, when you have to tell fancy stories even to me. Kee-rist! Kitten, I’m disappointed.”

Jane grinned. “I won’t believe yours, either.”

“I got shipwrecked, too,” Millie said.

Jane waved her hand. “Not interested,” she said solemnly.

“Well, I s’pose I gotta explain, on account of your dough. It was thisaway. I fell in a big way for a yegg. Mary was shocked, the little darling, but anyway I went and spent a few nights with him, sociable-like.”

“Oho, a bed-time story!”

“Yeah — and why I ever fell for his line — ” She stopped and scrutinized her old friend. “He said he’d get me a job in a real show!” Millie exclaimed. Jane was careful not to show the slightest spark of interest. “Well, tha’s all, except I almost had a brat, and I swiped your dough, and the yegg vanished in thin air, and I couldn’t get a job, and I started taking in men for a consideration — for quite a consideration — and they like me, and here I am — kind of fell in the woild, you see, when all the time I wanted to be a Pavlova.”

Said Jane: “You little idiot!”

“Aw, quit the preachin’.”

“Well, I don’t give a damn,” said Jane.

Millie smiled again. “What would you do, kitten?”

“What do you care what I’d do?”

“Well, I don’t, much. I can’t imagine you in my shoes, anyhow. What d’you know about it? Bet you never even had a lover — you old-fashioned, sensible-shoes Jane.”

“Only a couple of ’em,” Jane said.

“Don’t brag. ‘Tisn’t nice, and I don’t believe it.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Two of ’em, honest? Then you’re on to what I’m talkin’ about? You know how it is when you want to sleep with a guy?”

“Sure, I’m on,” Jane said softly.

“Hell, ain’t it?”


Jane was thinking fast and furiously. She thought that possibly at this point some sort of constructive idea might register. The horror of it was, she had none to offer. She did not have at her finger-tips small jobs on the stage, or in restaurant floor-shows. She could lend money; but that at best would be mere temporary help. Besides, she was quite sure Millie would have none of it.

“Well,” Millie said, “I’ll be moseyin’ along. Customer,” she explained, with a faint leer. “Don’t worry about your dough, beloved lioness.”

“Oh, hell! That’s the least of my worries,” Jane said impatiently.

Millie kissed her briefly, and went out, slamming the door. But the taste of lipstick stayed, and the smell of the cheap perfume. Jane went to one of the big windows, and thrust her head outside. It was a hot spring night, faintly damp; easy to think about lurid passions. A street light burned pale blue below. Somewhere a cat squalled. A far-off radio hurled out faint jazz, of which only the rhythm, and very little tune, could be heard. Jane felt restless and helpless. Again she was up against something she didn’t know how to fight. Not give way to ugliness?… She was determined to do something about Millie. If she couldn’t, then she would have failed; as a friend, as a human being. None of her other triumphs over friends’ troubles would mean a thing to her if she couldn’t help Millie. As she brooded, sick at heart, she wondered if it might not be a good idea to call Margaret into consultation. She tried to picture Millie in fine clothes; but she could not picture her without garish make-up and livid nail-paint…. Besides, it was dancing the girl wanted, in a show or restaurant. She could be good at that. Jane wondered if she knew anybody connected with shows or restaurants; and decided that, since she didn’t, she would make a point of becoming acquainted with one or two as soon as possible. Persons who had that mysterious thing called Drag….

Leaning on the wide window-sill, over the musky fragrance of her geraniums, she put her head down on her arms. As she leaned there in perplexity, half-crying, she thought of Davidson, and knew for sure that it was he, and not John, whom she desired most. John stood for all that was fun in life — but Davidson was life itself….

Jane’s doorbell was a romantic one — sometimes, it seemed, even sympathetic, for only a few days later Davidson himself rang it. She fell blindly into his arms, laughing and crying at once. His heart, beneath her cheek, was shaking both of them.

The long winter had suddenly ended. A warm wind had sent every branch and twig flicking off melted snow; the voiceless white brooks, whose cascades had so long been transformed to icicles, were awake and alive again. It was spring.

She drew away a little, but only enough to put her own arms around him, and look up into his face. “I don’t dare kiss you,” he murmured. “You might fade away and be a dream.”

“I won’t,” she whispered back. Before her rose the vision of the lost island in the dawn: the bright sea, the island gleaming like an opal, and gold spears striking through the clouds. The sails of the little boat that had been their prison through those days and nights, were radiant and magical. They were at the gateway of a fairy world, where mortal husks were to stay behind with all mortal chains and fears, leaving only a great brightness and enchantment to be their own forever. All this, during the moment that he kissed her, as if somehow he was laying it, like a precious offering, upon her lips.

After a long time he held her off at arm’s length, his hands on her shoulders, looking down into her face as though to make quite sure.

“Been happy?”

“I wanted to cry on your shoulder, Daveson, about how I missed you.”

“Well, now you have two serviceable shoulders.”

“But I don’t want to cry.”

“Well, is that all they’re good for? You mustn’t ever cry about me,” he said gently. “I hate to think of it.”

“Don’t you like to be missed?”

“Yes…. I mean — oh, now you’ve got me all mixed up.”

“Any answer you make is sort of wrong, isn’t it?”

“Don’t talk to my shirt, talk to me.”

“You’re rather high up, and anyway I like your shirt.”

“You’d think we’d been apart a thousand years, instead of one.”

“Davidson, it’s been thousands of millions of years…. I wish you never had to stop kissing me.”

“I can kiss you all night every night for a week.”

“Only a week!”

“How many times do you suppose we can kiss in a week?”

“Not enough,” she said. “Not enough to make up for this year. We’ll never catch up, Davidson. We’ll owe each other tremendous debts all our lives…. How’s everything?”

“Oh, I’m working — that’s the best I can say. In a steamer, chipping rust. Sea’s getting to be more of a washout all the time. Don’t let’s talk about anything so unpleasant. Let’s talk about you. You’ve let your hair grow, haven’t you?”

“Like it?”

“Very much,” he said. “It’s more like you. You weren’t meant to be fixed up by hair-dressers, anyway…. May I take it down?”

“You’re losing your grip, Daveson. Why ask?”

One by one he plucked out the pins, and presently her hair fell like a soft brown wing over his calloused knuckles. He played with it gently, running his fingers through it, winding it around his big wrists, burying his face in it, loving the warm smell of it.

“You’re beautiful,” he said.

And the telephone rang. “It would,” she said.

“Don’t answer it.”

“Oh, I have to. It may be a girl I know who’s in trouble.”

But it was John’s gay voice. “Hi, pal! Are you getting set for the big date tonight?”

“Oh, had we a date tonight?”

“What! You’ve forgotten?”

“Sorry, John. No can do.”

“Hey! Whaddya trying to pull on me?”

“You sound like a bank clerk,” Jane said. “Next, please!”

“But listen here, you can’t — say, what’s the matter, anyhow?”

“Something has occurred which renders it impossible for me to accompany you,” Jane said primly.

“Oh, talk English. Are you sick?”

“When did you ever know me to be sick…. No, thanks, ridiculous boy, I don’t need any of Lydia Pinkham’s pills.”

John sighed windily, and it reverberated in the receiver. “What is this thing called love?” he wailed at last.

“What, indeed? That’s the question.”

“Well, lunch tomorrow, then?”

“O. K.”

“Well, goodbye, and I hope you won’t sleep tonight.”

“I probably shan’t,” said Jane, and hung up.

Davidson was looking at her wistfully. “An admirer!” he exclaimed.

Jane nodded and laughed. “Didn’t you like the way I passed him off?”

But he was grim. “I’d like to knock his block off; that would teach him not to come prowling around my wife!”

Jane wrinkled up her forehead. “But Daveson, you didn’t expect me to live in a convent, did you? You mustn’t be jealous of Johnny. We knew each other when we were kids in Maine.”

“I’m jealous as hell. I don’t care if it is unreasonable. I never claimed to be reasonable — about you. Where was he going to take you tonight?”

“Sometimes we go dancing,” Jane said.

“Dancing!” he repeated stonily.

“What’s wrong with that?”

He shook his head. “Nothing, I guess,” he said glumly. “Only — somehow I never thought of you — That chap’s in love with you, isn’t he?”

“What makes you think that?”

“How could he help it? I bet he looks at you with his eyes all shining.”

Jane smiled. “Oh, Daveson, let’s not spoil this evening talking about him.”

“One more question,” he said.

“Don’t!” she pleaded.

“Then it’s true, and he’s your lover,” Davidson said.

“Davidson, what if he is? Can’t you see that it doesn’t matter?”

“Doesn’t matter!”

She tried to tell him about her two selves. She was not conscious now of any rationalization. At this moment it seemed to her absolutely true. She could even feel the two personalities inside her, who, instead of fighting each other till one of them was dead, were moving on side by side, as sensibly and peacefully as they could manage.

Davidson smiled ruefully. Then he sighed a little, and said in an entirely changed voice: “Jane, you wouldn’t believe how the world keeps shouting at me to take my hands off you — let you go free, and go free myself, because I’m useless and worthless, and can’t make any money, or look out for you as I should. And now that this chap… well, it’s another reason, that’s all. You wouldn’t be lonely…. Oh, I love you, and want you to be happy, Jane. I can’t make you happy — not in this civilization. You’ll want to — be married and have children — and I’d be a selfish brute to — ”

“Davidson, aren’t you going to marry me some day?” She was frightened at his calmness, after the passion that had swept him only a moment before.

“I want to confess something. It’s time I was honest with you.”

“Aren’t you always?”

“Well, not with myself, then. Yes, I’ve been fooling myself, living on pretty dreams, but dreams don’t wash with the world, Jane. No good.”

“Dreams are half your life,” said Jane in an echo. “And — the best half. The only half that counts.”

“Not with the world,” said Davidson.

“Just what do you mean when you say ‘the world’?”

“The beast you get your living off, whatever you want to call it. Just let me tell you what I’m up against!…. You don’t want to hear it, though. Only — I doubt very much, Jane, to put it honestly and… I doubt if we’ll ever be married.”

She drew his hand away from his eyes and made him look at her. “We are married,” she said.

“Jane, I can’t earn a living. Not even for myself. I’m an utter tramp. Don’t you see? I’ve no way of getting on. My profession — trade — whatever it is — it’s gone.”

The world would receive him like a granite wall — and it would hurt. That had been Jane’s thought years ago in the Annie Marlow. Davidson was a man whose livelihood had dropped from beneath him. And there was nothing to take its place. To one who had known the tall white glory of sails, the sea’s bitter strength, the great harmony of the wind, nothing ever could take its place. The insidious nature of the tragedy he was facing began to dawn on her afresh. He was without a calling, a drifter on the face of the sea. He was in the last analysis cut off from his shipmates because of spiritual barricades; and from the rest of mankind he was isolated because of shyness and his own cynicism.

To clinch the situation, he was not in the least interested in the world or what it could offer him. He was a seafarer, hopelessly unfitted for any other existence. And he was ambitionless. To go into the rush and whirl of the thing, to learn a trade, for instance, and take the ladder patiently rung by rung, changing all his habits and ideas, to concentrate slavishly on something which did not appeal to him anyway — that was as much out of the question as to create, stone for stone and tree for tree, a new island with his own bare hands.

Before Jane had come, life had been fairly simple. You drifted about from one ship to another, with little spells of intensely enjoyable leisure between. Sailing ships were declining, of course, but you could still pick up a schooner here and there. There were even a few wandering barks and barkentines. Between voyages you read and meditated about life. There was nothing very much to worry about. You laughed with your comrades, and went off on a bat with them occasionally. That was all.

Then Jane arrived in the middle of his tranquil wandering life. She was aloof and alien and beautiful beyond mortal words — a goddess, and yet miraculously his own. All of which was simple and natural enough, so long as there had been an uninhabited island to shelter them. After that the horror began, an interminable nightmare. The waves she caused agitated his quiet pool into frenzied rapids. He was in a state of chaotic frustration, about which nothing could be done. The old former life could not serve his needs any more. The sea could not serve him. Any kind of life at sea meant separation from her, not just for part of the time, but for most of it. Not the sort of existence to offer to the woman you loved.

The sea was false, and yet for him there could be nothing but the sea. There were steamships, with ridiculously low wages and short voyages, after which you were usually paid off. Then there still lingered a schooner or two here and there, but such jobs were mere casual oddities; you couldn’t support a wife, maybe a family, on oddities. And even if you could, what would be the use, when you would be away almost all the time? Like being single, yet without the same freedom from responsibility. And anyway, right now chances were a thousand to one against your getting any sort of a job at all.

With this problem staring him in the eye, he did not think it would be cowardly to go away from Jane and never see her any more. Rather, he was afraid that he was not brave or strong enough to do so.

“I can make just enough on one job to tide me over till I get another. As for that fishing-boat scheme, right now I wouldn’t dare buy one, even if I had the means. The state of things — depression, they call it, but I think it’s an excavation. Sailors are willing to work for nothing but their keep, and a thousand after every job. What can you do?”

“Things won’t go on like this forever, you know,” she said.

“They may. They’re going down and down and down. Jane, I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want to leave you; I’m just confessing, that’s all. I’m frustrated. I can’t do as I want, and I don’t know how to cope with it.”

“Kiss me,” said Jane.

“You silly! That won’t help the material side of the question.”

“The material side isn’t the most important side.”

“I’m not a romanticist, Jane; I’ve taken too many hard knocks.”

“Neither am I a romanticist; but please kiss me.”

He did, and she shivered. “Cold?”

“No, a rabbit ran over my grave. Didn’t that help the material side of the question just a little?”


“Then, you see, it really is true that the material side is only part of the whole thing. Even an excavation can’t break love.”

“No,” said Davidson.

“We’re going to conquer this thing, you know. We’re going to stick together and pull each other through.”

“Jane, you could make a better life without me pulling you down.”

“I don’t want anything but you.”


“I don’t know.”

“And this other fellow — ”

“Doesn’t mean a thing,” Jane said.

“Will you wait?”

“Of course.”

“Years, maybe?”

“As long as I live,” she told him — and she believed it, too.

Chapter XVI

Lost Island, part 16 – the original ending

“XVII” (should be “XVI”, I think) of Lost Island, pp. 229-246. Chapter I here.

At the end of the week, when his steamer sailed, Davidson was considerably cheered up. But Jane, although glad of her victory, was left exhausted. Every ounce of the spirit and determination she had given him during that week had correspondingly drained her own resources. She could not even keep up a pretense of courage. She was haunted by grotesque visions of the monstrous ogre with which Davidson was fighting a losing fight, almost single-handed. And there was nothing she could do to fend off the iron fist. Even in the wilds of an unknown island, there had been no ultimate escape from that fist.

Civilization — and among its other sins, it had abolished the ships that were Davidson’s life, and the life of many other men as well. More speed wanted, greater dependability, room for more cargo; everything must be keyed up to the highest possible pitch of speed and efficiency. Why? That was the irony of the thing. Where was it all bound? Only to more speed and efficiency, a continuing hectic circle, while hearts were crushed in it. And they called it Progress, and worshipped it….

But there had been Lost Island. Again and again she came back to that, and her eyes would shine. If you had a Lost Island in the past, and a sense of humor with which to fight the present, you could get along. If the world sometimes got to be too much for your sense of humor, you could cry a little, instead of laughing; then laugh at yourself.

Davidson wrote from San Francisco: “Putting out tonight — weather hopeless — fumbling in the dark Janie, but hoping — expect to be in New York again in a month — I have read Chance — I love you.”

“Fumbling in the dark'” with his awkward, willing hands, and getting hurt — it was an excruciating thought that tormented her through long nights, mingling incoherently with her wondering in vain what she could do for Millie, who had not even called her up again.

There was always John, indispensable John. He was a little restless now, for he had been a long time away from Maine and the mountains; but he was always on hand with a warming bottle of wine, or a compliment that made life temporarily easier; always ready and eager to dance, at any hour of the day or night, and eternally amusing. Jane could not help thinking that here in the lap of civilization at least, he was ever so much more — well, comfortable — than Davidson, who was so ready to be hurt by a misinterpreted word, or thrown into a dismal mood that would last for hours and wear her out.

John never lost his buoyant spontaneity. One morning, at about two o’clock, he jangled her doorbell, rudely waking her out of a sound sleep. She started up, wondering if she was dreaming, and it rang again. No doubt this time. She scrambled up and put on a light, scuffled into her slippers and threw a dressing gown around her.

John was tense, excited, his blue eyes gleaming. “Sorry to get you out of bed, Jane. But I had an idea — I do sometimes — and I’m that crazy I just had to come and spring it on you, or die of it. Let me in?”

“Of course,” she stammered, with a laugh.

“I’m like you; I do absurd things once in a while, such as calling on a young lady at two in the morning.”

“How often have you done that?” she inquired.

“Oh, my craziness usually works differently. Mountains, for instance. One day I was industriously shingling the roof, at home, and all of a sudden I hurled my hammer into the air and went and climbed Pike’s Peak.”

“But Pike’s Peak’s in Colorado.”

“Well, that’s where I went.”

“What are you up to now?” she inquired.

“Janie, I think you’d better come to Maine with me.”

She looked at him wide-eyed for a minute. “What a thing to bring up at this hour!” she exclaimed.

“On the contrary, I make all my important decisions at this hour. I’m at my best early in the morning; haven’t you caught on to that yet? But let’s get back to the point. You’re getting thin.”

“Is that the point?”

“You bet! I don’t like women to be too thin. Slender, of course, but not pencilly.”

“I don’t see why your views on the female form need concern me.”

“Who should they concern, if not me? Don’t I take you dancing three nights a week at least, flaunting you in public places? Besides, you aren’t happy. You may be able to fool anyone else in this world, but you can’t fool me, because I know.”

“How, may I ask?”

“I’ve been wondering. It isn’t by any outward sign. You’re a pretty good actress, all right. But I guess when you love a person, you know those things. You’re happiest when you’re dancing.”

“Well, nobody can be ecstatically joyous all the time,” she said. “Life isn’t built for that.”

“You work too hard,” he said.

“And you keep me up too late.”

“You think too much. You worry. You’re too sympathetic, and suffer too much over other people’s woes.”

“That may be true,” she admitted. “But as for working, I have to earn a living.”

“You put too much stress on that. Earning a living is all very well, but what’s the good of it if you don’t enjoy the living you sweat so hard to earn?”

“Well, that particular vicious circle has got everybody,” she said.

“Yes, but listen here! I’ve got the solution, so why not at least listen?”

“Well, shoot!”

“You’re getting pale,” he said.

“No personal remarks!”

“You’ve lived in Maine,” he went on. “You know that it’s the answer to all the ills of the body, and most other ills as well. Why don’t you come for a lengthy visit to my cabin by Katahdin?… Now wait! Let me exercise my salesmanship uninterrupted.”

“You don’t have to sell Maine to me. I remember.”

“Good! But let me sell myself. I’m capable of all sorts of things you wouldn’t suspect me of.”

“Oh, Johnnie, I’d suspect you of anything.”

“In this Maine project I want to be quite the under-dog — your humble servant, in fact.”

“Get along with you!”

“Now, you hold on! I’ll marry you, or not, whichever you like. I don’t give a damn about that. But — here’s the real proposition. If this idea of loving — or loving me, anyway — is worrying you, then the hell with loving, say I! We’ll be comrades, brother and sister, holy and pure and chaste; or, you can call my cabin a health resort, and me your solicitous doctor, if you like that better.”

She looked at him quizzically, her head a little on one side. “John,” she began at last, “is all this nobleness founded on supreme love, or just natural human kindness, or what?”

“You needn’t make fun of me,” he protested. “I’m in dead earnest.”

“Supreme love, then,” she said.

“Of course! Why do you doubt it? Now, isn’t it all reasonable enough? You can’t refuse, can you? Janie, that cabin in Maine is going to be a hell of a lot better with you in it — and it was pretty good anyway. And listen: you know there are lakes in Maine, and little green islands in the lakes…”


“Wouldn’t you like to camp on one — just the two of us, with my tent for a house?”

“What a subtle irony it is,” she exclaimed, “that you should offer me islands, John!”

“Isn’t it a rather swell irony, though?”

“There are other people in the world,” she said after a little.

“Janie, you’ll never make me believe that your troubled friends are worth getting thin for.”

“It isn’t only them.”

“Where is this mysterious lover of yours, Jane? He stands between us, yet I never see him. Is he a wandering sailor, or what?”

“Your humor is grim,” she said. “That’s exactly what he is.”

John drew in his breath sharply. “But he’s making you unhappy,” he protested. “Can it be worth while?”

“Yes; it’s my life.”

“You mean, one of them.”

“It’s one I couldn’t get along without. John, now it’s my turn to talk. I’m going to start playing fair with you, right this minute. I’ve been trying, but I’ve been too confounded selfish.”

“Don’t bother about it,” he said.

“I must. John, you’ve been weeks and weeks in New York…”

“Business,” he mumbled, without looking at her.

“Business, shucks! You’re hanging around to give me a good time. And you are giving me a good time. I’ve adored the dancing, and the wine, and — the loving, too. But it isn’t fair to you. Now you know; why don’t you go to Maine yourself?”

“Business,” he mumbled again, and smiled. “Don’t you think you’re making me happy, too? Nobody on earth can dance like you.”

“I know,” she said. “You want to stick around and watch me, in case life gets too much for me and I collapse. Then you’ll tenderly pick up the pieces. Noble of you, pal, and I appreciate it. But don’t worry. I’m not going to collapse.”

“Oh, you’ve made up your mind about that?”

“Definitely. Years ago.”

He looked at her wistfully. “Wouldn’t you miss me a bit?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s no secret,” she said.

“Well, then!”

“But I’m not playing fair,” she said. “Not to anybody.”

“You’re too big for one life. So you needed me, too.”

“Pretty gross, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s grand, and honest. I’ve never struck anyone as honest as you, Jane. Don’t mind if I say things crudely sometimes.”

“And you aren’t even jealous,” she said. “I think that’s rather remarkable.”

“Is he?”

She smiled a little, and nodded.

“The simpleton!”

“No — he likes to possess, that’s all.”

“I bet he’s dark and sort of grim, and has a moustache.”

“Your humor is remarkably perspicacious. John, don’t carry it too far. Hurts.”

“Sorry.” He put his arm around her. “Maybe — well, maybe I am a little jealous.”

She smiled again. “That’s all right. Nice of you to admit it.”

“I wish I could carry you away out of this,” he said. “We could go to the mountains — anywhere out of New York. You don’t belong here, except for dancing. It’s horrible for you to be here day after day. We could be kids again, and I could watch your hair go flying, as I used to. Haven’t you the courage to break away from sordid things?”

She shook her head without speaking. “John, be a reasonable boy, and go away and let me sleep, will you? I’ll think about it — honest.”

“Thinking again!”

“Sorry it upsets you so, but I guess that’s the way I’m built.”

“Well, go ahead and think, if you have to, but think it out my way. Come to Maine with me, just for while, Jane — for a vacation.”

“A vacation — from life?”

“From one of them,” he answered. “And watch your weight, young lady. If I catch you losing as much as another pound, I’ll kidnap you!”

He was tempting her more than he knew. The very mention of the cool green woods of Maine…. And a kind of peace to be found there — an echo, almost, of the Lost Island peace. Davidson thousands of miles away, tired and discouraged and bitter, and — yes, inadequate. In the world you had to take good things when they were offered. It was not much use to stick to vague shadowy ideals and dreams that might never again be allowed to come true. You might have the best intentions in the world of being true to ideals, and fighting and suffering and sacrificing for them most nobly; but the world was hard-boiled and indifferent; the reaction was inevitable. You became selfish, too, grabbing good things where you saw them, forgetting other people, forgetting dreams. She felt torn, and miserable. Was it really worth while to deny oneself for the sake of a dream that was, perhaps, ended? But — could you deny a dream, when it was interwoven with the vital fibers of your heart?

New York — anything to get away from New York. But Davidson — anything for him. On Lost Island such conflicts — unreasonable, brutal — never arose to confront you. Here they sprang up like the mythical warriors from dragons’ teeth. On Lost Island one man, one dream, one cave, one world. Here all these were insanely multiplied and distorted. Lost Island… and John offering islands, too!…

A few weeks later Davidson came again. He came very quietly through the door, without saying a word, and took her in his arms. A little shudder went through her.

He stood with his back against the door, bending over her — unnaturally quiet, even for him.

“Daveson, what’s happened? Why so solemn?” she asked finally.

“I just want to tell you something,” he said, “and then I’m going away again. I’ve got to leave you — forever.”

She stared at his tense face. “You’re taking it all in one plunge, aren’t you?” she said.

“Isn’t that best?”

“Yes, but I can’t move so fast. Doesn’t register, Daveson. Won’t you even come in and sit down, and tell me slowly and simply what’s the matter?”

He sighed, and relaxed a little. “Oh, sure,” he conceded. “Sorry to be so blunt.”

“Well, it seems sudden to me,” she said, “but of course you’ve been brooding over it for ages.”

“Yes, I have. Ever since we got back.”

“I know,” she said.

“Jane, I’m no use.” He made a despairing gesture. “It’s all so futile. I can’t do anything. I can’t even tell you…”

“Do you love me?” she asked simply.

“That isn’t the point,” he said almost gruffly.

“Of course it is!” she cried.

“Blythe about it, aren’t you?” he protested bitterly. “Women are queer. Can’t imagine any reality but love. If there are other realities — unpleasant ones — they evade them.”

“You’re annoyed with me,” she said.

“A little,” he admitted. “I’m trying so hard to think this through; and you won’t see it with your head, but only with your sweet, stupid heart. How can I ever make you understand? Won’t you try? You make me feel worse than ever,” he complained.

Instantly she changed, enfolding him in a real and serious attempt to understand this trouble. She found his hand, and held on to it as though it were the only reed that kept her from falling into endless depths; and a dim reminiscence came over her, of floating, without gravity or support, in a blue haze, with one solid concrete object to hold — an oar, that had been.

“First I want to tell you a story,” Davidson said. “Once there was a man. Not much of a man, though. He was a sailor, and a very stupid one. Well, at first that didn’t matter. It was all right until he met a girl he wanted to marry. And then he needed some money. But he was too stupid, I expect. This chap was walking around one day, and he saw a bunch of people in front of the post office, and so he went up to see what was going on. And they were auctioning off a little sloop. This man had an eye for two things in the world — his wife, and little boats.”

“You just said he wasn’t married,” Jane put in.

“This man looked at the boat, and she was sound as a bell, and had sweet lines and a brave way about her. Well, he had a little money in the bank — just enough — and he bought her.”

“Good for him!” she said.

“He bought her,” Davidson went on severely. “He played round with her in the Sound, and liked her. And then one day he thought to himself: ‘I could sell this sloop, if I trimmed her up a bit, at about twice what I paid for her, and that would help get me to the point where I can — marry my wife.’ Well, this man really was very stupid. He painted her, and rove in new running gear, and made her happier than she’d been for a long time. One day a rich chap offered him nearly three times the cost of that sloop. But the sailor had been getting fonder and fonder of her all this time he’d been at work on her. ‘What’ll you do with her?’ he asked. ‘Oh,’ said the rich chap, ‘I’ll stick a good high-power auxiliary in her — make her into a little pleasure-boat.’ And that stupid sailor said he guessed he’d keep her a while longer…. A little later came another sailor, an old shipmate of his, and looked at the sloop; and there was something in his eye, though he didn’t talk much, that said he liked her — that said he wouldn’t tear her to pieces and load her up with machinery. Well, the stupid man sold her for only a few dollars less than he’d paid for her, but the sailor couldn’t pay right away. He took her out into the Sound, and got into a gale and lost her and drowned himself into the bargain. And the stupid man never got paid at all.”

“His wife would understand,” Jane said quickly. “She would have wanted him to do just that.”

“Dearest,” he pleaded, “don’t you see now?”

“I see you,” she answered, smiling.

“I’ve been back a year, and not a cent to show for it. I’ve picked up an odd job here and there, taken a voyage, got paid off, looked around for ships and found nothing but steamers, lost what few dollars I did have. It’s too ridiculous, and — I can’t marry you, Jane. I couldn’t profane it by asking you to come to me in poverty and rags and dirt.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“I’d hardly ever even be with you. I’d have to be out trying to pick up a crust here and there, like a damned seagull. I’d be with you when I was out of work — that’s about all.”

“I can work,” Jane said. “I’ve some money saved up already.”

“Do you think it makes a man very happy to feel that he can’t even support his wife?”

“When it isn’t his fault?”

“You couldn’t be happy with someone who wasn’t good enough.”

“You’re the best in the world.”

“Not by the world’s standards,” he retorted, with some irony.

“But who cares about the world’s idiotic standards?”

“We’re living in the world, and you have to,” he answered bitterly. “That’s what I’m finding out.”

“I don’t believe I could live without you,” Jane said gravely after a while.

“I had sort of a happy thought,” he said unhappily. “We could get along on what we’ve had — feed on the past all the rest of our futures. There was enough, and it was good enough, to hold us forever.”

“Like camels,” she said bitterly, “living for days on what they put in their wretched bellies at one meal. Ye Gods!… I can’t even conceive of a life without you,” she went on distantly. “It’s like trying to imagine infinite space. Imagination gives up.”

“Luckily, perhaps,” he mumbled.

“Don’t be cruel. All the time I’ve known you, you’ve never been cruel to me.”

“Dearest, it’s life that’s cruel — the world — civilization — to me, too.”

“Men are notoriously fond of passing the buck.”

“Jane, you’re fighting me. Can’t you help at all? Don’t you see what I’m up against?”

“I love you,” she said.

“Women are notorious for their lack of logic.”

“I used to believe that,” she said vehemently. “But now I don’t know — I don’t know, Davidson.”

“Well, I love you, but that doesn’t get us anywhere.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“The island,” he murmured.

“Oh, well, if you’re thinking in terms of the island — ”

“Aren’t you? Don’t answer all at once. Think. When you think about love, isn’t it a green hill in the starlight? Don’t you think of the sea, and the fragrance, and the magic? And haven’t those become part of us and so part of our love?”

“You mean you don’t believe our love could stand without those things?” she questioned, incredulous.

“I don’t believe it would be so good. I think it would be a disillusion — in the midst of poverty, and unrest. And I won’t have that, Jane. It’s been the only completely beautiful thing in my life, and I’ll never let it become less, even if I have to give it up. I think it’s too good for the world, and I won’t have the world touch it. Jane, don’t you remember what we said back on the island, the night we were married?”

“You mean, about not giving in to ugliness?”


“But that’s just what we would be doing,” she exclaimed, “if we let the world win out.”

“No,” he said, “the only way not to let the ugliness win is — to keep the lovely thing away from it.”

“It all sounds very grand and idealistic,” she said. “But, you see, I just want — to live.” And at the same time, she could not help wondering, for a fleeting second, if he was right.

“You don’t understand, then,” he mumbled, as if to himself. “I didn’t know. I thought you might, when I told you how much I was feeling it all. Jane, I hate to leave you without your understanding.”

“But you’re not going to leave me!” she cried.

“I have to.”

She looked at him, wild and breathless. “Oh, it’s like that, is it?” she questioned faintly.

“Yes, it’s like that.”

She got up heavily. And all her feelings went suddenly numb, as though she had been wrestling with something far beyond her strength. That, she thought, was what happened in the worst crises of life. You were simply deprived of feeling. It was nature’s way of helping you survive. Survival seemed the only thing important to nature; how, or why, was none of her business.

“Let’s take a vacation,” she said softly, “and have some supper.”

Davidson, temporarily alone with his half-won victory, would have been very glad to exchange it for defeat. He had known that he was about to hurt her almost inhumanly, but this silent, dazed reaction was frightening him now. A consciousness was growing upon him that, with all his understanding of her, he had never entirely taken into consideration the full intenseness of her need for him; and somewhere, nearly extinguished by troubles that crowded and clamored around him, was a single small sparkle of happiness and pride. Did he have, really, the slightest right or reason to lay open both their hearts on this mysterious imaginary altar to Beauty? Was Jane, perhaps, right that love was the only beauty that mattered?

He only knew that his feelings and resolves were seething about him in a frenzied chaos — a storm of black and white snowflakes, with Jane, terrified, in the midst of it, buffeted and shaken. Cold perspiration broke out on his forehead.

She said nothing at all. Mechanically she went through the motions of getting some supper ready. She did not know how to think of the future; but for a fleeting second it crossed her mind that next week she would go dancing with John, and that his cheeriness, her dress with the gold cape, the warmth of music, the delight of dancing, his easy goodnight kiss, would be an infinite relief. It seemed that you suffered only up to a certain point, and then the animal was forced to protect itself; as though through the opening of some automatic safety valve, you could not suffer any more.

It became more plain every second that Davidson was right. You could not bring into this world a perfection briefly attained in another, and expect it to endure. And it was obvious that to marry him would mean throwing them both into relentless circles of strain and worry, over each other as well as over materialistic things. He would be constantly in fear of failing her, wondering whether she was conscious of being failed, always aware of his worldly shortcomings, wondering whether he was imposing beyond reason on her love; and, most important of all, continually torn between her and her eternal rival, the sea.

As for Jane, she would be too much on the alert, too much under strain to foresee and intercept these fears of his, trying too hard to keep him reassured; and, even supposing she could succeed at all in this, it could only be when she was feeling on top of the world; and how could anyone be on top of the world all the time? The sea had won, that was all. She could not contend with the sea…. And dimly, fleetingly, in the back of her mind came again, like a tiny pricking, the secret knowledge that she would be wanting now and then to dance.

Some time, being Jane, she would stage another rebellion. It would not be the same kind of rebellion, though. Real adventures could never be repeated. It was a mistake to try to go back, hunting again for the places where there had been high ecstasies. If only a person could have the courage to push forward, over deserts and swamps and glaciers, he would certainly make new discoveries, perhaps as bright as the others. One way to begin an adventure was to buy a red skirt….

This life was over. Davidson was right — to end it quietly and honestly was all that mattered now.

All this, while she fussed at supper. She came back from the tiny kitchen to set the table, and he saw that her expression of terror and tenseness had gone. She nodded to him almost gaily. She brought a big salad in a blue bowl; crackers, cheese; Hamburg and fried potatoes; and, last of all, with an air of mystery, a dark bottle and two small glasses.

“Red wine,” she said, “for our un-wedding night.” The drama of that made her smile.

“You understand, then.”

“Yes.” And she felt, rather than heard, that he sighed tremendously, as a condemned prisoner might sigh, relieved beyond words to have suspense ended, and nothing now to face except death.

He looked at her across the small table. She was just a little flushed with the wine. Her straight brown hair had fallen out of place across her forehead, and her eyes sparkled. She was happy in a kind of desperate way — a little bit artificial, histrionic. Her wispy blue blouse had fallen half off one pale brown shoulder. It was a strong and solid shoulder rather than a graceful one, but at the sight of it a tempest surged through Davidson, toying with his resolves as the wind of open sea shakes the great white sails, trying to tear at them, lift them free of the lines that hold them, hurl them out into space to a fierce destruction.

Once she looked at him piercingly, and said: “Anyway, I’ll never again know what it means to be afraid.”

“I haven’t known, Jane, since the night I fished you out of the wreck. That was when the dream began. You were so helpless and white, and you had nobody but me. I wanted to take you away somewhere, so you couldn’t be hurt any more.”

“And you did!” she said, smiling.

“Yes, that part of the dream came true. I loved you, but I wanted you all to myself. I’ve always been jealous, Jane. I could almost have been jealous of the butterflies. That’s why I was so hurt when I heard about — him. I didn’t want to believe it. I knew then that I’d lost you.”

“But you hadn’t!” she cried.

“Yes, in a way I had, because I couldn’t satisfy all of you, and I couldn’t share you. Jealousy is pretty ugly. I didn’t want there to be anything between you and me that wasn’t beautiful.”

“There can’t be, now,” she told him. “Nobody can ever share what you and I have had. That’s a different part of life, closed and locked and sealed. You were right, David. I wanted you so much I lost track of other things — the most important thing.”

“Lost Island.”

“I was thinking of Beauty.”

“It’s all the same,” he said.

“Well, we’ve given up both our hearts to that goddess now,” said Jane. “She can’t complain. Nobody could give her more than that.”

He took her in his arms for the last time, and sat stroking her hair. She belonged to him still. She would belong to him always, only soon she would stand, a precious goddess, fragrant as wild roses, on some high pinnacle, inaccessible and remote, his own and yet lost to him, given to his ideal.

She herself was back again on the starlit hill in flower-scented grass; and a pang of hope made her wonder why this could not happen always; even in a shack in the slums, or anywhere else, why could not being together make the island come true, all the rest of their lives? But then she knew that would be asking too much of any magic. It would rebel under such a burden; it would resent being called on, year after year, to be dragged through the dirt so that they might go on dreaming.

“David! Kiss me, and go quickly.”

She was trembling a little, and he felt like a traitor. “I’d be even more of a traitor if I stayed,” he said.

“Good luck to you, sailor.”

He kissed her on the lips again, softly. “Maybe,” he said, “it’s lucky I’m a sailor. We’re forever getting shipwrecked, or buying little boats with our last pennies, and bumming round. And somewhere there might even be… The old sea has secrets still.”

From a letter to Alice D. Russell dated May 31, 1932:

The book — this time I mean mine — has suddenly sprung a disconsolate discovery. I find, much to my disgust and up-noseishness, that I shall have to write another chapter to round out the thing properly. My nose is still so much turned up that I can’t get after the chapter yet. Of all exasperating things to find out after you’ve written a book — to think it’s All Done, and then to see some untucked frazzles hanging out the tail end! However, that’s but a temporary set-back. I expect to have the whole thing done before I go away for the summer. In fact, I MUST. I’ll try to get a copy to you, and I want your opinion including all the hard slams you like.

According to a letter to Helen dated June 30, 1956 (see Barbara Newhall Follett: A Life in Letters, p. 612), Alice never had the chance to read Lost Island. However, we do have the opinion of Professor Frederic Taber Cooper. From a letter to Barbara dated June 29, 1932 (a date suggesting that it didn’t take long for Barbara to finish her new chapter):

No, whatever you do, don’t use that new final chapter. It is written in a wholly different mood, and even the tone of it, even Jane’s attitude towards her specific problem and toward life is altered. It seemed to me as I read that some one else, and not Barbara Follett, had been taking a hand in things and giving her version and not yours. What it all means, if I am at all correct, is that you have already, in these weeks or months since you first drafted Lost Island, grown away from your former attitude and can’t quite get back. We agreed the other day that there is no such thing as finality in human stories; but your original ending was as near a definite, logical rounding out as you can hope for. And at least the work was all of one piece. It had a unity in structure and in style. And my advice is to keep it that way.

Now, if some publisher wants a supplemental chapter, I don’t say it would be a mistake to show the new chapter to him. The book as a whole would remain the refreshingly lovely thing that it is, either with or without the addition. Only I shall always feel that it is more artistic just as it stands.

The added chapter.

Lost Island, part 17 – the later ending

The final chapter of Lost Island. Chapter I is here.

Barbara “rehashed” her novel while living in Brookline in 1934. She kept Chapter 17 with her final manuscript, and that’s how I presented it in Lost Island (plus three stories and an afterword) (Farksolia, 2020).


“John, you’re an old kidnapper, that’s what you are!”


“Sure I’m glad, but I think you’re a menace to the country, all the same.”

“What do you propose to do about it, Janie?”

“That’s just what I’m trying to figure out. Dangerous business, you know, to transplant a person several hundred miles without even giving them a chance to breathe. New York — presto! — the Maine woods.”

“But you are glad?”

“Yes, that’s the one flaw in my arguments. I am glad.”

“I want to be — oh, awfully good to you, Jane. After all, I took you away, almost by main force, to spend your nasty little two-weeks vacation at my sister’s house in Portland, and now I’ve got to be good.”

“You’re incredible, Johnnie. I always knew that — ever since you said: ‘Why doon’t ye pin a note on the duck?’ Remember?”

John threw back his head and laughed happily. His eyes met the rare blue of the sky over Maine on a clear day. She looked up too — not at tenements or skyscrapers, but into a wavering lattice of pine branches. A green and gold dragonfly whisked overhead. A song sparrow was chattering about summer time and the sun. This was Maine again. It had not been an illusion. There was really sunlight here.

Now that she was sure, she dared to remember a time, not long ago, when there had been a creeping darkness around her, over her — stifling, thunderous. She beat her wings in anguish against iron — and no release, no hope, no beauty, seemed even remotely true any more. The world was a glum black smudge. No prospect of its ever changing. You marched on, round and round, until you fell gasping from exhaustion. And she had too much strength to fall from exhaustion. Life was apparently hardest on strong people, then. The weaklings could simply die.

She remembered how she had cursed the world, hated the world, screamed at the world for driving Davidson off from her — for driving him off into the clean wide seas on an endless quest. In a way the victory was his, for he had not compromised with love. He had taken the iridescent essence of it in the palm of his hand, sorted out of it every grain of earthly dust, locked it up and thrown the key into his ocean. His victory and hers — but at the price of all the happiness in life. The sun had gone out — civilization had extinguished it as though it were a frail candle.

She had been deathly tired and sick — more so, it seemed, than during her days in the open boat. She remembered standing at Times Square one afternoon, waiting to cross to the subway entrance, and the ring of buildings had moved unsteadily and rocked in upon her, throwing ghastly shadows, and then wheeled back to leave cosmic spaces. Throngs and floods of people had swept by like an ugly wind; and over their roaring and droning a babel of sharper voices had hovered, each one clamoring for instant attention. “Jane, won’t you marry me?” “Aw, shucks, kid, cut out the lion-fever stuff. Don’t be a weepin’ willer.” “Have you seen my glasses, by any chance?” “Somewhere — there may be another island.”… The traffic lights changed — the currents of people mingled, conflicted, altered. She went on with them blindly, and fell down the subway entrance into complete darkness.…

“You’re right, Johnnie, I ought to be much more gracious about the way you yanked me out and set me down in my woods again. Tell me — I’m a little browner and sunnier today, aren’t I?”

“Yes, now you’re — you’re almost Jane, instead of that little wispy ghost with hollow cheeks and immense tragic eyes.”

“It’s the woods,” she told him, laughing. “I belong here, you know.”

Always the woods had calmed her. They were home. She could bend her body lithely among close brush and low branches. She could make her way with amazing soft-footedness — almost as quietly as the rustling squirrels and rabbits themselves. She loved the fragrance of wintergreen and sassafras leaves, and balsam needles. Years ago, when life had seemed very complex considering its futility, she would go out alone among leaves and moss, hills and streams, and they would sweep away the world’s tangles much as she brushed aside dewy cobwebs in the undergrowth. Now, in this bitterest experience of her life, had the woods lost their magic?

At first it seemed as though they had. Every creature, every leaf-shadow, every spore-laden fern, was in tune, while she was an outsider, grieving, unfulfilled. She felt white and conspicuous in a world where all colors blended as though they had grown there. And she could remember only the Lost Island forest, where she and Davidson had walked together, as part of each other and part of their world.

But after all there was sunlight here. Pastures ripe with steeplebush and gold-green hayscented ferns, luscious with blueberries. Pine groves and wild flowers and small animals. Walking alone for miles along narrow roads. Sometimes a deer dashed across in front of her, wide-eyed and alert, white tail in the air. Or a partridge would start up with a thunderous whir of wings. She would push into the woods after awhile, and wander quietly among shadows of leaf and light, quick to see a scattering of yellow lady-slippers or a cluster of white and lavender orchids. Sometimes a lizard — small curl of reddish color — would move against a wet brown leaf; or a chipmunk scurry by, his cheek pockets well stuffed. Veeries sang in golden spirals. And in the evening, hermit-thrushes answered each other from tree to tree.

There were countless things to be discovered when you roamed about outdoors, alone and in sunlight. She knew now the answer to a question she had asked long ago — when people were in love, were they still alone? Yes, always alone. Everyone on earth who thought about it at all was isolated, starkly, completely. Love gave a divine illusion. It gave companionship developed to the most subtle pitch — but beyond that it was an illusion. You were alone.

The Maine forest had taken her now, and it was pounding her against its earth, stripping away her half-shattered ragged rainbow. She was alone. And there was nothing to be counted on, anywhere. There were these woods, of course, but someday men from cities would come breaking in, and find here deposits of iron or of coal, or strip the place of its trees to build their own super-civilized dwelling places. Not even the woods, then, could really be counted on. Life was transitory, shifting, mirage-like.

Still, these forests would probably last her lifetime, after all. And then the candle goes out. She threw her arms impulsively around the trunk of a splendid young white pine, and laid her head against its rough bark. It reminded her of the day when she had first climbed the main rigging of the Annie Marlow, when she had clung to the sturdy topmast for strength and support. This was a very sympathetic white pine. Perhaps, in days gone by, it had been personally acquainted with that topmast. She almost felt that it was on communicative terms with her. A gust of wind shook its upper boughs — the masses of needles went sparking silver in the sun, and a vibration ran through the staunch old trunk. Its roots were in the earth, and its branches in the sun, and that was a good way to live.

Nothing could be counted on, all was transitory, and you were alone. Those facts were rather difficult foundations for a house of life, but perhaps you could build upon them, if you knew how. Or perhaps it was better to forget all houses and be like this tree, roots in the earth, boughs in the sun. A world of philosophy there — whole dusty bookshelves of it in two phrases!

This tree seemed permanent enough. For the time being, and for her, it could serve. Not even the earth was really permanent. Perhaps someday something would go wrong with the machinery of the universe — the balance would be upset — and the earth would go catapulting into its sun like a very small moth into a gigantic flame. But for the time being, this tree would serve well.

She looked straight up at the sky through surges of silver-green. Big bright clouds rolled by smoothly. She stared at them a long time, and then felt the swift sensation that she, her pine tree, and all the woods, all the world, were falling slantingly. She held on and watched, and drifted more and more into the swinging illusion of the thing. She and the pine tree were falling through space together. It was a long fall, and an oddly companionable one. She laughed a little at that. Life was relentless, but there was nothing more it could take away from her. She clung to her tree, ruthlessly divested by life of an entire world — a complete paradise — but the magic had been, and it was hers — as much hers and as real as anything could be in a transitory earth where no one could entirely possess anything.

The first thing to do was to dispose of this abysmal sorrow. Intellectually, logically, she had banished it long ago — in fact, on the day they had parted, and she had opened her arms to release him. “My mind’s right with you,” she told his shadow afterwards, “but oh, beloved, my heart’s making bad weather of it.”

He was right, of course. To take a love that had been divine, and force it to continue on a worldly plane, might have been cruel and heartless, and led to a towering disillusion. Better to sorrow, then — better to sorrow your heart out. This way, the essence of the rainbow could be forever treasured, preserved in its crystal. Uncared for, it might have waned until at last the crystal was only an empty shell.

Nothing in life was permanent. That was a terrible fact to take and be on friendly terms with. You were content to let most things shift and change, but there were a few you craved to hold with might and main. That was where bitterness came in — when you saw that this changing was a relentless river, eventually carrying everything away with it, bringing new things, carrying them away.

Even beauty changed. You changed. You were caught in the midst of complex currents of continual change. Perhaps it was good, if only you could accept it completely — if only your heartstrings would accept it. Perhaps it could keep you alive and happy and excited, if you knew how to use it. That was how you revolved in harmony with the world, instead of trying to buck it, to alter its direction according to yours.

Jane laughed, then. To complain, as she sometimes did, at the absence of change, then to struggle with the fact of continual change; to call herself a rebel, a hater of civilization, and then to philosophize about revolving along with the world…. It was impossible to solve anything there. You went round and round in circles. And all those conflicting thoughts had some measure of truth. She felt that at last she had come to a point of vantage — a mountain outlook where she could rest awhile and study the landscape. She saw it all below — a confusion of feelings and opinions and complaints spread out in complex circular patterns. All had a touch of absurdity. They were all true, they were all false, they all conflicted. Life was a complex circular pattern. It was absurd to believe anything too strongly — absurd to want anything too much — certainly absurd to be unhappy. She should be happier than most. She could survey the thing from a mountain outlook, and see it in totality, whereas if you lost yourself down there you took it all very seriously and followed some strand on and on without even realizing that it was circular and that there was no use in it. And she thought of the man pursuing the horizon in Stephen Crane’s poem….

Some of her feelings and thoughts she could confide to John. He would understand pieces of them, and they would discuss life animatedly as though it were an intellectual adventure. He would carefully follow all her winding passageways, but only with his mind. When it came to living, there were no winding passageways and no corners that were for him especially dark. When life was difficult, he went away and climbed a mountain, and came back with his heart washed in star-dust and his hope and faith high. If only she could go back from the Maine woods to New York feeling like that!

Till now she had hardly dared to think about New York, even for a minute. Now she would set to work systematically to map out and build up for herself a possible life there. Millie had gone on the road, so there was the question of a new roommate, for instance. And a job. Maybe there was another job in the world beside that grubby little one in Professor Myers’ office. She would ask John that evening. He had various surprising contacts with editors, printers, publishers. How about a bookstore? It might actually be fun to sell books. She would become adept at looking at a customer and knowing what was wanted. She would learn how to advise solicitous aunts what to buy for their infant nieces, or what a strapping father should present to his daughter on her birthday….

A qualm of despair rushed over her, a little shudder of rebellion. Why did people have to go on this way, fighting the world to wring a meager living out of it through devious channels? Channels? Gutters, rather! Why weren’t the trees enough? Why couldn’t one dance in fairy circles and thrive on frosty red wintergreen berries? Well, there was John. She distinctly saw that thought, overhead and a little to one side, hovering elusively. It must keep on hovering for some time before she could use it. Perhaps it would never come any nearer or be any brighter….

Now to stop rambling and get back to that city. She would miss this tree. She and it had lived through some vivid moments together…. There was the roommate question to attend to. She would need someone who was very happy. A happy person in New York? Doubtless there were a few, but they would be harder to find than fairies. One by one, she thought about the girls she knew, beginning, as nearly as she could judge, at the top of the happiness list. It was amusing to speculate about them this way. They ranged themselves in her mind like a row of marigolds, the brightest at one end, shading by degrees to duller, more wilted ones. After awhile she came to the very end of the line….

It was a long time since she had found courage to call on Margaret Kingsley, in her miserable corner down town, with not even a window-box of pansies for company. But now that the Maine woods had stiffened up her back a little, perhaps she could use this new strength — hold on to it by using it — by playing tree to somebody else. She had long been used as a tree by her friends. It was odd, and significant, that in her need she could turn only to the original tree itself — roots truly in the earth, branches waving in the sun!

Suddenly, from overhead, came a rush of song — notes that were clear and cool as moonstones, trailing up to a cascade of opals. Into the song of that hermit-thrush had crept all the joy mingled with all the sadness of her thoughts since she had come out by herself into the woods. As if the bird understood. Sunlight glanced through the leaves. The woods were alive and breathing gently. She was a pagan. She was in tune with them…. Clinging in silence to the white pine tree, she closed her eyes, but the cloud motion went on. She fell softly through infinite space, while a hermit-thrush sang. A far cry from New York!…


“Margie, you look grand this morning in that green dress.”

“Really like it, Jane? I think it’s not so bad.” Margaret Kingsley was brushing her hair thoughtfully in front of the little mirror.

“Howard tonight?”

“Yes, he’s meeting me at the store, after I finish selling corsets to my ugly old ladies.”

“Oh, well, I’ll be at my books all day, too — selling sex books to timid little women, books on woodcraft and fishing to pudgy business men, and the mediocrest novels you ever saw to everybody.”

“Don’t forget you found Howard Castle in that bookstore of yours.”

“You don’t let me forget it, do you?”

“Honest, Jane, I can’t so much as think about him without being practically electrocuted…. It’s a good life, you know.”

“Sure, I know. Nasty weather today, though.” Jane drew aside a rather dingy curtain and looked out into gray sheets of rain.

“Oh, by the way, Jane, I was thinking — whatever has become of John these days? Haven’t seen him in ages.”

“He went to Canada to nurse his battered emotions. Didn’t I tell you?”

Margaret turned around. “Why don’t you marry the poor guy and put him out of his misery?” she inquired.

“I may sometime.”

“I think he’s gorgeous,” said the other; then turned to her brushing again.

“Well, marry him yourself, and save me the trouble,” Jane suggested.

“Janie, you aren’t still — married to a ghost, are you?” A visible tremor went through the girl as she spoke. “Oh, Jane, it sounds so cold and shivery — married to a ghost.”

“Don’t talk about ghosts in weather like this. I’ve got to go to work, you know — smile all day at the dear customers — if any.”

It seemed to Jane that during the last year she and Margaret had pulled each other up pretty well, braced back to back. They had taken all the best odds and ends of life that they could find, and mingled them into a mosaic sort of pattern which was life. “Not much like the dreams, Marg, but it isn’t so bad, either, if we stick together.”

Still, Margaret was right. There was no sense at all in being married to a ghost. You could love the past and hold it sacred, but it was futile to try to live by it in the present — to mingle the two and build the present upon the dream that had been. Millie would doubtless have called her “Mrs. Ghost.” The thought made her chuckle, and she wished Millie were on hand to share it. She missed Millie a good deal, especially these last few weeks, for it seemed that Margaret’s standing was precarious — that any day now would see her carried off, body and soul, by her young poet. But then, any day now Millie would come home.

She would come in late some evening, with a great scuffling of heels and a gorgeous painted mouth, wearing a skin-tight black satin dress and a fluffy black fur-piece thrown casually over one shoulder. “Hello, lioness!” she would shout gaily. And Jane would never mention Mrs. Ghost at all….

And then it would be just as it was five years ago. Margaret would marry her poet, but Millie’s fifteenth — or was it sixteenth? — fiancé would be sent packing. Millie was now further along in the world of vaudeville and choruses, and Jane worked in a bookstore instead of an entomological research bureau, at a wage of five dollars a week more, but otherwise… it was fearful to think of civilization going on and on like this, trying to kid itself into believing it was eternal and immortal.

She had an odd sensation, then, as though, like the light princess in MacDonald’s enchanting fairy tale, she had lost her gravity. It was incredible that she should come back from her kingdom outside the world — come back and be able, even painfully, to adapt herself to life on earth again. It was incredible that the earth should still exist. She and it both should have undergone some supreme transformation. Instead of which — here she was. She was conscious that a few floating ragged streamers of rainbow still clung about her. She must carefully strip them off now, and put them into the trash-basket. In a few minutes it would be time to sally out to work. And you couldn’t go to a respectable job in a bookstore with rainbow rags drifting about your shoulders, or star-dust in your hair….

Jane laughed again, but there was a gleam of danger in her eye. Sometime, not too far off, she would stage another rebellion. It would not be the same kind of rebellion, though. One could never repeat the real adventures. That was why so many people were unhappy, she reflected. They tried to go back and repeat the things that had made them happy before. They tried to retrace the trail and visit again the places where they had known their highest ecstasies; whereas, if only they had the courage to push on, forward, over deserts and swamps and glaciers, they would sometime make new discoveries as bright as the others, or even brighter, perhaps…. One good way to start a rebellion was to buy a red, red skirt….

The rain surged down with a steady drone. Well, it was time to go to work. Couldn’t hang about the window all day. She peered out once more into the gray. As fas as she could see, not even a cat was out.