Lost Island, part 7

Chapter VII (pp. 84 – 99) of Lost Island, which began here.

The storm came with a frowning of the sky, and ponderous shadows over the sea’s face. Jane sensed it, early one morning when she went on deck. Serenity was lost, cast away behind. The sea had no use for that now. The world was a gray color, unutterably gray. The wind was gray. It came in whorls, biting at the foam. The waves showed white hungry teeth.

Mate and captain stood together in a corner of the poop, but Jane could not hear their voices. The wind had set its heart upon transforming the two men into marionettes, animated but soundless. She moved a little closer, and thought she heard Captain Maynard say: “Dirty, by the look of it.” Stevens solemnly nodded his head. All of a sudden Jane wanted to laugh, and wished Davidson were up there with her. Human beings had dwindled, and seemed puny and helpless. The ship was diminishing, too. Once, without any warning, she took a gaunt wave over her windward bow, and shuddered to it like some wild creature.

“Best get them topsails in, Stevens,” the captain said. “Then they’ll be in.”… Read more

Lost Island, part 8

Chapter VIII (pages 100-112) of Lost Island, which began here.

Long afterwards Davidson was to remember a certain moment on the Annie Marlow‘s poop deck as the most dire moment of his life. In times of stress he would compare his trouble to that past horror, and sigh with relief. That was the ultimate. Nothing the world could do to him would ever approach the intensity of it. Thinking of it, he would feel impervious to discouragement, money, life. He never regretted having seen the bottom of the pit of despair, for it served as armor and shield. It was the moment when he realized that Jane was not there with the others.

They were lowering the life-boat in the thick of fiendish confusion. In the uproar of squall and rain that had suddenly descended as if released from long imprisonment, the sea was like the inside of a volcano in eruption.

The men had been pumping hard most of the night, and were exhausted and bleary-eyed. That was why he had forgotten to look for her, make sure that she was with them. And now it was too late. Now they were launching the life-boat, and the schooner was sinking.… Read more

Lost Island, part 9

Chapter IX (pp. 113-126) of Lost Island, which began here.

They might almost have spent their lives in that one corner of the long beach, exchanging low-voiced conversation, moving only in order to shake low-drooping branches of an orange tree, or pull down another banana. But on the afternoon of the fourth day, black clouds began to pile up over the sea. Leaves rustled and shivered, turning up their pale lower sides. Jane and Davidson had moved slowly along the beach, with the vague idea of finding shelter from the threatening rain somewhere in the woods or cliffs.

Davidson pointed. “Maybe we can crawl in under that big rock that leans outward. Up there near the top of the cliff.”

“If we can get up to it,” Jane said.

Getting up was not so hard as it looked. They had edged around tidal pools fringed with seaweed, climbed giant steps, crept along narrow ledges, peered into dim crevices. Almost straight below, the sea rose and fell with lazy, swaying rhythm. It seemed blue beyond anything that blue could be. Farther back, along by the beach, it changed abruptly to clear blue-green; and sea urchins could be distinctly seen, very black and bristly against the magic of flickering lights on the sand.… Read more

Lost Island, part 10

Chapter X (pages 127 – 142) of Lost Island. Chapter I here.

Davidson was whittling. He sat in the mouth of the cave, with the big green ferns around him, the rocky turrets and soft blue sea for background. He was naked and tawny-colored among green fronds. The thick soft hair on his chest and forearms was spun gold in the sun. The hair on his head was getting scraggly now, and it was oddly bleached on top; the beard was perhaps and inch long — light brown, with glints of gold, and here and there a suspicion of red. In fact, Davidson looked primitive and comfortable, and as if he belonged there. He sat tensely concentrated over a little block of ebony wood which he was shaping with his jackknife; and despite all Jane’s teasing, he would not tell her about it.

“All sailors whittle,” he informed her. “It’s another of our common weaknesses, like not being able to swim, and liking to make love. We just can’t help ourselves.”

“And you won’t tell me what it is?” she pleaded.

“Sure — it’s ebony.”

“Brute!”

“If I told you what it’s going to be, it would turn out to be something else,” he protested.… Read more

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.… Read more

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?… Read more

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.… Read more

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.… Read more

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.… Read more

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….… Read more