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Title:      Proteus Island
Author:     Stanley G. Weinbaum
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Title:      Proteus Island
Author:     Stanley G. Weinbaum

The brown Maori in the bow of the outrigger stared hard at Austin Island
slowly swimming nearer; then he twisted to fix his anxious brown eyes on
Carver. "Taboo!" he exclaimed. "Taboo! Aussitan taboo!"

Carver regarded him without change of expression. He lifted his gaze to
the island. With an air of sullen brooding the Maori returned to his
stroke. The second Polynesian threw the zoologist a pleading look.

"Taboo," he said. "_Aussitan_ taboo!"

The white man studied him briefly, but said nothing. The soft brown eyes
fell and the two bent to their work. But as Carver stared eagerly
shoreward there was a mute, significant exchange between the natives.

The proa slid over green combers toward the foam-skirted island, then
began to sheer off as if reluctant to approach. Carver's jaw squared.
"_Malloa!_ Put in, you chocolate pig. Put in, do you hear?"

He looked again at the land. Austin Island was not traditionally sacred,
but these natives had a fear of it for some reason. It was not the
concern of a zoologist to discover why. The island was uninhabited and
had been charted only recently. He noted the fern forests ahead, like
those of New Zealand, the Kauri pine and dammar--dark wood hills, a
curve of white beach, and between them a moving dot--an _apteryx
mantelli_, thought Carver--a kiwi.

The proa worked cautiously shoreward.

"Taboo," Malloa kept whispering. "Him plenty _bunyip!_"

"Hope there is," the white man grunted. "I'd hate to go back to Jameson
and the others at Macquarie without at least one little _bunyip_, or
anyway a ghost of a fairy." He grinned. "_Bunyip Carveris_. Not bad, eh?
Look good in natural-history books with pictures."

On the approaching beach the kiwi scuttled for the forest--if it _was_ a
kiwi after all. It looked queer, somehow, and Carver squinted after it.
Of course, it had to be an _apteryx_; these islands of the New Zealand
group were too deficient in fauna for it to be anything else. One
variety of dog, one sort of rat, and two species of bat--that covered
the mammalian life of New Zealand.

Of course, there were the imported cats, pigs and rabbits that ran wild
on the North and Middle Islands, but not here. Not on the Aucklands,
not on Macquarie, least of all here on Austin, out in the lonely sea
between Macquarie and the desolate Balleny Islands, far down on the edge
of Antarctica. No; the scuttling dot _must_ have been a kiwi.

The craft grounded. Kolu, in the bow, leaped like a brown flash to the
beach and drew the proa above the gentle inwash of the waves. Carver
stood up and stepped out, then paused sharply at a moan from Malloa in
the stern.

"See!" he gulped. "The trees, _wahi!_ The _bunyip_ trees!"

Carver followed his pointing figure. The trees--what about them? There
they were beyond the beach as they had fringed the sands of Macquarie
and of the Aucklands. Then he frowned. He was no botanist; that was
Halburton's field, back with Jameson and the _Fortune_ at Macquarie
Island. He was a zoologist, aware only generally of the variations of
flora. Yet he frowned.

The trees _were_ vaguely queer. In the distance they had resembled the
giant ferns and towering kauri pine that one would expect. Yet here,
close at hand, they had a different aspect--not a markedly different
one, it is true, but none the less, a strangeness. The kauri pines were
not exactly kauri, nor were the tree ferns quite the same Cryptogamia
that flourished on the Aucklands and Macquarie. Of course, those islands
were many miles away to the north, and certain local variations might be
expected. All the same--

"Mutants," he muttered, frowning. "Tends to substantiate Darwin's
isolation theories. I'll have to take a couple of specimens back to

"_Wahi_," said Kolu nervously, "we go back now?"

"Now!" exploded Carver. "We just got here! Do you think we came all the
way from Macquarie for one look? We stay here a day or two, so I have a
chance to take a look at this place's animal life. What's the matter,

"The trees, _wahi!_" wailed Malloa. "_Bunyip!_--the walking trees, the
talking trees!"

"Bah! Walking and talking, eh?" He seized a stone from the pebbled beach
and sent it spinning into the nearest mass of dusky green. "Let's hear
'em say a few cuss words, then."

The stone tore through leaves and creepers, and the gentle crash died
into motionless silence. Or not entirely motionless; for a moment
something dark and tiny fluttered there, and then soared briefly into
black silhouette against the sky. It was small as a sparrow, but
bat-like, with membranous wings. Yet Carver stared at it amazed, for it
trailed a twelve-inch tail, thin as a pencil, but certainly an appendage
no normal bat ought to possess.

For a moment or two the creature fluttered awkwardly in the sunlight,
its strange tail lashing, and then it swooped again into the dusk of the
forest whence his missile had frightened it. There was only an echo of
its wild, shrill cry remaining, something that sounded like "_Wheer!

"What the devil!" said Carver. "There are two species of Chiroptera in
New Zealand and neighboring islands, and that was neither of them! No
bat has a tail like that!"

Kolu and Malloa were wailing in chorus. The creature had been too small
to induce outright panic, but it had flashed against the sky with a
sinister appearance of abnormality. It was a monstrosity, an aberration,
and the minds of Polynesians were not such as to face unknown
strangeness without fear. Nor for that matter, reflected Carver, were
the minds of whites; he shrugged away a queer feeling of apprehension.
It would be sheer stupidity to permit the fears of Kolu and Malloa to
influence a perfectly sane zoologist.

"Shut up!" he snapped. "We'll have to trap that fellow, or one of his
cousins. I'll want a specimen of his tribe. Rhimolophidae, I'll bet a
trade dollar, but a brand-new species. We'll net one tonight."

The voices of the two brown islanders rose in terror. Carver cut in
sharply on the protests and expostulations and fragmentary descriptions
of the horrors of _bunyips,_ walking and talking trees, and the
bat-winged spirits of evil.

"Come on," he said gruffly. "Turn out the stuff in the proa. I'll look
along the beach for a stream of fresh water. Mawson reported water on
the north side of the island."

Malloa and Kolu were muttering as he turned away. Before him the beach
stretched white in the late afternoon sun; at his left rolled the blue
Pacific and at his right slumbered the strange, dark, dusky quarter; he
noted curiously the all but infinite variety of the vegetable forms,
marveling that there was scarcely a tree or shrub that he could identify
with any variety common on Macquarie or the Aucklands, or far-away New
Zealand. But, of course, he mused, he was no botanist.

Anyway, remote islands often produced their own particular varieties of
flora and fauna. That was part of Darwin's original evolution theory,
this idea of isolation. Look at Mauritius and its dodo, and the
Galapagos turtles, or for that matter, the kiwi of New Zealand, or the
gigantic, extinct moa. And yet--he frowned over the thought--one never
found an island that was entirely covered by its own unique forms of
plant life. Windblown seeds of ocean borne debris always caused an
interchange of vegetation among islands; birds carried seeds clinging to
their feathers, and even the occasional human visitors aided in the

Besides, a careful observer like Mawson in 1911 would certainly have
reported the peculiarities of Austin Island. He hadn't; nor, for that
matter, had the whalers, who touched here at intervals as they headed
into the antarctic, brought back any reports. Of course, whalers had
become very rare of late years; it might have been a decade or more
since one had made anchorage at Austin. Yet what change could have
occurred in ten or fifteen years?

Carver came suddenly upon a narrow tidal arm into which dropped a
tinkling trickle of water from a granite ledge at the verge of the
jungle. He stooped, moistened his finger, and tasted it. It was brackish
but drinkable, and therefore quite satisfactory. He could hardly expect
to find a larger stream on Austin, since the watershed was too small on
an island only seven miles by three. With his eyes he followed the
course of the brook up into the tangle of fern forest, and a flash of
movement arrested his eyes. For a moment he gazed in complete
incredulity, knowing that he couldn't possibly be seeing--what he was

The creature had apparently been drinking at the brink of the stream,
for Carver glimpsed it first in kneeling position. That was part of the
surprise--the fact that it was kneeling--for no animal save man ever
assumes that attitude, and this being, whatever it might be, was not

Wild, yellow eyes glared back at him, and the thing rose to an erect
posture. It was a biped, a small travesty of man, standing no more than
twenty inches in height. Little clawed fingers clutched at hanging
creepers. Carver had a shocked glimpse of a body covered in patches with
ragged gray fur, of an agile tail, of needle-sharp teeth in a little red
mouth. But mostly he saw only malevolent yellow eyes and a face that was
not human, yet had a hideous suggestion of humanity gone wild, a
stunning miniature synthesis of manlike and feline characteristics.
Carver had spent much time in the wastelands of the planet. His reaction
was almost in the nature of a reflex, without thought or volition; his
blue-barreled gun leaped and flashed as if it moved of itself. This
automatism was a valuable quality in the wilder portions of the earth;
more than once he had saved his life by shooting first when startled,
and reflecting afterward. But the quickness of the reaction did not lend
itself to accuracy.

His bullet tore a leaf at the very cheek of the creature. The thing
snarled, and then, with a final flash of yellow flame from its wild
eyes, leaped headlong into the tangle of foliage and vanished.

Carver whistled. "What in Heaven's name," he muttered aloud, "was that?"
But he had small time for reflection; long shadows and an orange tint to
the afternoon light warned that darkness--sudden, twilightless
darkness--was near. He turned back along the curving beach toward the

A low coral spit hid the craft and the two Maoris, and the ridge jutted
like a bar squarely across the face of the descending sun. Carver
squinted against the light and trudged thoughtfully onward--to freeze
into sudden immobility at the sound of a terrified scream from the
direction of the proa!

He broke into a run. It was no more than a hundred yards to the coral
ridge, but so swiftly did the sun drop in these latitudes that dusk
seemed to race him to the crest. Shadows skittered along the beach as he
leaped to the top and stared frantically toward the spot where his craft
had been beached.

Something was there. A box--part of the provisions from the proa. But
the proa itself--was gone!

Then he saw it, already a half dozen cables' lengths out in the bay.
Malloa was crouching in the stern, Kolu was partly hidden by the sail,
as the craft moved swiftly and steadily out toward the darkness
gathering in the north.

His first impulse was to shout, and shout he did. Then he realized that
they were beyond earshot, and very deliberately, he fired his revolver
three times. Twice he shot into the air, but since Malloa cast not even
a glance backward, the third bullet he sent carefully in the direction
of the fleeing pair. Whether or not it took effect he could not tell,
but the proa only slid more swiftly into the black distance.

He stared in hot rage after the deserters until even the white sail had
vanished; then he ceased to swear, sat glumly on the single box they had
unloaded, and fell to wondering what had frightened them. But that was
something he never discovered.

Full darkness settled. In the sky appeared the strange constellations of
the heaven's under hemisphere; southeast glowed the glorious Southern
Cross, and south the mystic Clouds of Magellan. But Carver had no eyes
for these beauties; he was already long familiar with the aspect of the
Southern skies.

He mused over his situation. It was irritating rather than desperate,
for he was armed, and even had he not been, there was no dangerous
animal life on these tiny islands south of the Aucklands, nor, excepting
man, on New Zealand itself. But not even man lived in the Aucklands, or
on Macquarie, or here on remote Austin. Malloa and Kolu had been
terrifically frightened, beyond doubt; but it took very little to rouse
the superstitious fears of a Polynesian. A strange species of bat was
enough, or even a kiwi passing in the shadows of the brush, or merely
their own fancies, stimulated by whatever wild tales had ringed lonely
Austin Island with taboos.

And as for rescue, that too was certain. Malloa and Kolu might recover
their courage and return for him. If they didn't, they still might make
for Macquarie Island and the _Fortune_ expedition. Even if they did what
he supposed they naturally would do--head for the Aucklands, and then to
their home on the Chathams--still Jameson would begin to worry in three
or four days, and there'd be a search made.

There was no danger, he told himself--nothing to worry about. Best thing
to do was simply to go about his work. Luckily, the box on which he sat
was the one that contained his cyanide jar for insect specimens, nets,
traps, and snares. He could proceed just as planned, except that he'd
have to devote some of his time to hunting and preparing food.

Carver lighted his pipe, set about building a fire of the plentiful
driftwood, and prepared for the night. He delivered himself of a few
choice epithets descriptive of the two Maoris as he realized that his
comfortable sleeping bag was gone with the proa, but the fire would
serve against the chill of the high Southern latitude. He puffed his
pipe reflectively to its end, lay down near his driftwood blaze, and
prepared to sleep.

When, seven hours and fifty minutes later, the edge of the sun dented
the eastern horizon, he was ready to admit that the night was something
other than a success. He was hardened to the tiny, persistent fleas that
skipped out of the sand, and his skin had long been toughened to the
bloodthirsty night insects of the islands. Yet he had made a decided
failure at the attempt to sleep.

Why? It surely couldn't be nervousness over the fact of strange
surroundings and loneliness. Alan Carver had spent too many nights in
wild and solitary places for that. Yet the night sounds had kept him in
a perpetual state of half-wakeful apprehension, and at least a dozen
times he had started to full consciousness in a sweat of nervousness.

He knew why. It was the night sounds themselves. Not their loudness nor
their menace, but their--well, their _variety_. He knew what darkness
ought to bring forth in the way of noises; he knew every bird call and
bat squeak indigenous to these islands. But the noises of night here on
Austin Island had refused to conform to his pattern of knowledge. They
were strange, unclassified, and far more varied than they should have
been; and yet, even through the wildest cry, he fancied a disturbing
note of familiarity.

Carver shrugged. In the clear daylight his memories of the night seemed
like foolish and perverse notions, quite inexcusable in the mind of one
as accustomed to lonely places as himself. He heaved his powerful form
erect, stretched, and gazed toward the matted tangle of plant life under
the tree ferns.

He was hungry, and somewhere in there was breakfast, either fruit or
bird. Those represented the entire range of choice, since he was not at
present hungry enough to consider any of the other possible
variations--rat, bat, or dog. That covered the fauna of these islands.

Did it, indeed? He frowned as sudden remembrance struck him. What of the
wild, yellow-eyed imp that had snarled at him from the brookside? He had
forgotten that in the excitement of the desertion of Kolu and Malloa.
That was certainly neither bat, rat, nor dog. What was it?

Still frowning, he felt his gun, glancing to assure himself of its
readiness The two Maoris might have been frightened away by an imaginary
menace, but the thing by the brook was something he could not ascribe to
superstition. He had seen that. He frowned more deeply as he recalled
the tailed bat of earlier in the preceding evening. That was no native
fancy either.

He strode toward the fern forest. Suppose Austin Island _did_ harbor a
few mutants, freaks, and individual species. What of it? So much the
better; it justified the _Fortune_ expedition. It might contribute to
the fame of one Alan Carver, zoologist, if he were the first to report
this strange, insular animal world. And yet--it was queer that Mawson
had said nothing of it, nor had the whalers.

At the edge of the forest he stopped short. Suddenly he perceived what
was responsible for its aspect of queerness. He saw what Malloa had
meant when he gestured toward the trees. He gazed incredulously, peering
from tree to tree. It was true. There were no related species. There
were no two trees alike. Not two alike. Each was individual in leaf,
bark, stem. There were no two the same. _No two trees were alike!_

But that was impossible. Botanist or not, he knew the impossibility of
it. It was all the more impossible on a remote islet where inbreeding
must of necessity take place. The living forms might differ from those
of other islands, but not from each other--at least, not in such
incredible profusion. The number of species must be limited by the very
intensity of competition on an island. _Must_ be!

Carver stepped back a half dozen paces, surveying the forest wall. It
was true. There were ferns innumerable; there were pines; there were
deciduous trees--but there were, in the hundred yard stretch he could
scan accurately, _no two alike!_ No two, even, with enough similarity to
be assigned to the same species, perhaps not even to the same genus.

He stood frozen in uncomprehending bewilderment. What was the meaning of
it? What was the origin of this unnatural plenitude of species and
genera? How could any one of the numberless forms reproduce unless there
were somewhere others of its kind to fertilize it? It was true, of
course, that blossoms on the same tree could cross-fertilize each other,
but where, then, were the offspring? It is a fundamental aspect of
nature that from acorns spring oaks, and from kauri cones spring kauri

In utter perplexity, he turned along the beach, edging away from the
wash of the waves into which he had almost backed. The solid wall of
forest was immobile save where the sea breeze ruffled its leaves, but
all that Carver saw was the unbelievable variety of those leaves.
Nowhere--nowhere--was there a single tree that resembled any he had seen

There were compound leaves, and digitate, palmate, cordate, acuminate,
bipinnate, and ensiform ones. There were specimens of every variety he
could name, and even a zoologist can name a number if he has worked with
a botanist like Halburton. But there were _no_ specimens that looked as
if they might be related, however distantly, to any one of the others.
It was as if, on Austin Island, the walls between the genera had
dissolved, and only the grand divisions remained.

Carver had covered nearly a mile along the beach before the pangs of
hunger recalled his original mission to his mind. He had to have food of
some sort, animal or vegetable. With a feeling of distinct relief, he
eyed the beach birds quarreling raucously up and down the sand; at
least, they were perfectly normal representatives of the genus Larus.
But they made, at best, but tough and oily fare, and his glance returned
again to the mysterious woodlands.

He saw now a trail or path, or perhaps just a chance thinning of the
vegetation along a subsoil ridge of rock, that led into the green
shades, slanting toward the forested hill at the western end of the
island. That offered the first convenient means of penetration he had
encountered, and in a moment he was slipping through the dusky aisle,
watching sharply for either fruit or bird.

He saw fruit in plenty. Many of the trees bore globes and ovoids of
various sizes, but the difficulty, so far as Carver was concerned, was
that he saw none he could recognize as edible. He dared not chance
biting into some poisonous variety, and Heaven alone knew what wild and
deadly alkaloids this queer island might produce.

Birds fluttered and called in the branches, but for the moment he saw
none large enough to warrant a bullet. And besides, another queer fact
had caught his attention; he noticed that the farther he proceeded from
the sea, the more bizarre became the infinite forms of the trees of the
forest. Along the beach he had been able at least to assign an
individual growth to its family, if not its genus, but here even those
distinctions began to vanish.

He knew why. "The coastal growths are crossed with strays from other
islands," he muttered. "But in here they've run wild. The whole island's
run wild."

The movement of a dark mass against the leaf-sprinkled sky caught his
attention. A bird? If it were, it was a much larger one than the
inconsiderable passerine songsters that fluttered about him. He raised
his revolver carefully, and fired.

The weird forest echoed to the report. A body large as a duck crashed
with a long, strange cry, thrashed briefly among the grasses of the
forest floor, and was still. Carver hurried forward to stare in
perplexity at his victim.

It was not a bird. It was a climbing creature of some sort, armed with
viciously sharp claws and wicked, needle-pointed white teeth in a
triangular little red mouth. It resembled quite closely a small dog--if
one could imagine a tree-climbing dog--and for a moment Carver froze in
surprise at the thought that he had inadvertently shot somebody's
mongrel terrier, or at least some specimen of Canis.

But the creature was no dog. Even disregarding its plunge from the
treetops, Carver could see that. The retractile claws, five on the
forefeet, four on the hind, were evidence enough, but stronger still was
the evidence of those needle teeth. This was one of the Felidae. He
could see further proof in the yellow, slitted eyes that glared at him
in moribund hate, to lose their fire now in death. This was no dog, but
a cat!

His mind flashed to that other apparition on the bank of the stream.
That had borne a wild aspect of feline nature, too. What was the meaning
of it? Cats that looked like monkeys; cats that looked like dogs!

He had lost his hunger. After a moment he picked up the furry body and
set off toward the beach. The zoologist had superseded the man; this
dangling bit of disintegrating protoplasm was no longer food, but a rare
specimen. He had to get to the beach to do what he could to preserve it.
It would be named after him--_Felis Carveri_--doubtless.

A sound behind him brought him to an abrupt halt. He peered cautiously
back through the branch-roofed tunnel. He was being trailed. Something,
bestial or human, lurked back there in the forest shadows. He saw it
--or them--dimly, as formless as darker shades in the shifting array
that marked the wind-stirred leaves.

For the first time, the successive mysteries began to induce a sense of
menace. He increased his pace. The shadows slid and skittered behind
him, and, lest he ascribe the thing to fancy, a low cry of some sort, a
subdued howl, rose in the dusk of the forest at his left, and was
answered at his right.

He dared not run, knowing that the appearance of fear too often brought
a charge from both beasts and primitive humans. He moved as quickly as
he could without the effect of flight from danger, and at last saw the
beach. There in the opening he would at least distinguish his pursuers,
if they chose to attack.

But they didn't. He backed away from the wall of vegetation, but no
forms followed him. Yet they were there. All the way back to the box and
the remains of his fire, he knew that just within the cover of the
leaves lurked wild forms.

The situation began to prey on his mind. He couldn't simply remain on
the beach indefinitely, waiting for an attack. Sooner or later he'd have
to sleep, and then--Better to provoke the attack at once, see what sort
of creatures he faced, and try to drive them off or exterminate them. He
had, after all, plenty of ammunition.

He raised his gun, aimed at the skittering shadow, and fired. There was
a howl that was indubitably bestial; before it had quivered into
silence, others answered. Then Carver started violently backward, as the
bushes quivered to the passage of bodies, and he saw what sort of beings
had lurked there.

A line of perhaps a dozen forms leaped from the fringe of underbrush to
the sand. For the space of a breath they were motionless, and Carver
knew that he was in the grip of a zoologist's nightmare, for no other
explanation was at all adequate.

The pack was vaguely doglike; but by no means did its members resemble
the indigenous hunting dogs of New Zealand, nor the dingoes of
Australia. Nor, for that matter, did they resemble any other dogs in his
experience, nor, if the truth be told, any dogs at all, except perhaps
in their lupine method of attack, their subdued yelps, their slavering
mouths, and the arrangement of their teeth--what Carver could see of
that arrangement.

But the fact that bore home to him now was another stunning repetition
of all his observations of Austin Island--they did not resemble each
other! Indeed, it occurred to Carver with the devastating force of a
blow that, so far on this mad island, he had seen no two living
creatures, animal or vegetable, that appeared to belong to related

The nondescript pack inched forward. He saw the wildest extremes among
the creatures--beings with long hind legs and short forelimbs; a
creature with hairless, thorn-scarred skin and a face like the
half-human visage of a werewolf; a tiny, rat-sized thing that yelped
with a shrill, yapping voice; and a mighty, barrel-chested creature
whose body seemed almost designed for erect posture, and who loped on
its hinder limbs with its fore-paws touching the ground at intervals
like the knuckles of an orangutan. That particular being was a horrible,
yellow-fanged monstrosity, and Carver chose it for his first bullet.

The thing dropped without a sound; the slug had split its skull. As the
report echoed back and forth between the hills on the east and west
extremities of Austin, the pack answered with a threatening chorus of
bays, howls, growls, and shrieks. They shrank back momentarily from
their companion's body, then came menacingly forward.

Again Carver fired. A red-eyed hopping creature yelped and crumpled. The
line halted nervously, divided now by two dead forms. Their cries were
no more than a muffled growling as they eyed him with red and yellowish

He started suddenly as a different sound rose, a cry whose nature he
could not determine, though it seemed to come from a point where the
forested bank rose sharply in a little cliff. It was as if some watcher
urged on the nondescript pack, for they gathered courage again to
advance. And it was at this moment that a viciously flung stone caught
the man painfully on the shoulder.

He staggered, then scanned the line of brush. A missile meant humankind.
The mad island harbored something more than aberrant beasts.

A second cry sounded, and another stone hummed past his ear. But this
time he had caught the flash of movement at the top of the cliff, and he
fired instantly.

There was a scream. A human figure reeled from the cover of foliage,
swayed, and pitched headlong into the brush at the base, ten feet below.
The pack of creatures broke howling, as if their courage had vanished
before this evidence of power. They fled like shadows into the forest.

But something about the figure that had fallen from the cliff struck
Carver as strange. He frowned, waiting a moment to assure himself that
the nondescript pack had fled, and that no other menace lurked in the
brush, then he darted toward the place where his assailant had fallen.

The figure was human, beyond doubt--or was it? Here on this mad island
where species seemed to take any form, Carver hesitated to make even
that assumption. He bent over his fallen foe, who lay face down, then
turned the body over. He stared.

It was a girl. Her face, still as the features of the Buddha of Nikko,
was young and lovely as a Venetian bronze figurine, with delicate
features that even in unconsciousness had a wildness apparent in them.
Her eyes, closed though they were, betrayed a slight, dryadlike slant.

The girl was white, though her skin was sun-darkened almost to a golden
hue. Carver was certain of her color, nevertheless, for at the edges of
her single garment--an untanned hide of leopard-like fur, already
stiffening and cracking--her skin showed whiter.

Had he killed her? Curiously perturbed, he sought for the wound, and
found it, at last, in a scarcely bleeding graze above her right knee.
His shot had merely spun her off balance; it was the ten-foot fall from
the cliff that had done the damage, of which the visible evidence was a
reddening bruise of her left temple. But she was living. He swung her
hastily into his arms and bore her across the beach, away from the brush
in which her motley pack was doubtless still lurking.

He shook his nearly empty canteen, then tilted her head to pour water
between her lips. Instantly her eyes flickered open, and for a moment
she stared quite uncomprehendingly into Carver's eyes, not twelve inches
from her own. Then her eyes widened, not so much in terror as in
startled bewilderment; she twisted violently from his arms, tried twice
to rise, and twice fell back as her legs refused to support her. At last
she lay quite passive, keeping her fascinated gaze on his face.

But Carver received a shock as well. As her lids lifted, he started at
the sight of the eyes behind them. They were unexpected, despite the
hint given by their ever-so-faint Oriental cast, for they flamed upon
him in a tawny hue. They were amber, almost golden, and wild as the eyes
of a votary of Pan. She watched the zoologist with the intentness of a
captive bird, but not with a bird's timidity, for he saw her hand
fumbling for the pointed stick or wooden knife in the thong about her

He proffered the canteen, and she shrank away from his extended hand. He
shook the container, and at the sound of gurgling liquid, she took it
gingerly, tilted a trickle into her hand, and then, to Carver's
surprise, smelled it, her dainty nostrils flaring as widely as her
diminutive, uptilted nose permitted. After a moment she drank from her
cupped palm, poured another trickle, and drank that. It did not occur to
her, apparently, to drink from the canteen.

Her mind cleared. She saw the two motionless bodies of the slain
creatures, and murmured a low sound of sorrow. When she moved as if to
rise, her gashed knee pained her, and she turned her strange eyes on
Carver with a renewed expression of fear. She indicated the red streak
of the injury.

"_C'm on_?" she said with a questioning inflection. Carver realized that
the sound resembled English words through accident only. "Where to?" He

She shook a puzzled head. "_Bu-r-r-o-o-on!_" she said "_Zee-e-e!" _

He understood that. It was her attempt to imitate the sound of his shot
and the hum of the bullet. He tapped the revolver. "Magic!" he said
warningly. "Bad medicine. Better be good girl, see?" It was obvious that
she didn't understand. "_Thumbi?_" he tried. "You Maori?" No result save
a long look from slanting, golden eyes. "Well," he grunted, "_Sprechen
zie Deutsch_, then? Or Kanaka? Or--what the devil! That's all I
know--_Latinum intelligisne_?"

"_C'm on?_" she said faintly, her eyes on the gun. She rubbed the
scratch on her leg and the bruise on her temple, apparently ascribing
both to the weapon.

"All right," Carver acceded grimly. He reflected that it could do no
harm to impress the girl with his powers. "I'll come on. Watch this!"

He leveled his weapon at the first target he saw--a dead branch that
jutted from a drifted log at the end of the coral spit. It was thick as
his arm, but it must have been thoroughly rotted, for instead of
stripping a bit of bark as he expected, the heavy slug shattered the
entire branch.

"O-o-oh!" gasped the girl, clapping her hands over her ears. Her eyes
flickered sidewise at him; then she scrambled wildly to her feet. She
was in sheer panic.

"No, you don't!" he snapped. He caught her arm. "You stay right here!"

For a moment he was amazed at the lithe strength of her. Her free arm
flashed upward with the wooden dagger, and he caught that wrist as well.
Her muscles were like tempered steel wires. She twisted frantically;
then, with sudden yielding, stood quietly in his grasp, as if she
thought, "What use to struggle with a god?"

He released her. "Sit down!" he growled.

She obeyed his gesture rather than his voice. She sat on the sand before
him, gazing up with a trace of fear but more of wariness in her
honey-hued eyes.

"Where are your people?" he asked sharply, pointing at her and then
waving in an inclusive gesture at the forest.

She stared without comprehension, and he varied his symbolism. "Your
home, then?" he pantomimed the act of sleeping.

The result was the same, simply a troubled look from her glorious eyes.

"Now what the devil!" he muttered. "You have a name, haven't you? A
name? Look!" He tapped his chest. "Alan. Get it? Alan. Alan."

That she understood instantly. "Alan," she repeated dutifully, looking
up at him.

But when he attempted to make her assign a name to herself, he failed
utterly. The only effect of his efforts was a deepening of the
perplexity in her features. He reverted, at last, to the effort to make
her indicate in some fashion the place of her home and people, varying
his gestures in every way he could devise. And at last she seemed to

She rose doubtfully to her feet and uttered a strange, low, mournful
cry. It was answered instantly from the brush, and Carver stiffened as
he saw the emergence of that same motley pack of nondescript beings.
They must have been watching, lurking just beyond view. Again they
circled the two slain members as they advanced.

Carver whipped out his revolver. His movement was followed by a wail of
anguish from the girl, who flung herself before him, arms outspread as
if to shield the wild pack from the menace of the weapon. She faced him
fearfully, yet defiantly, and there was puzzled questioning in her face
as well. It was as if she accused the man of ordering her to summon her
companions only to threaten them with death.

He stared. "O.K.," he said at last. "What's a couple of rare specimens
on an island that's covered with 'em? Send 'em away."

She obeyed his gesture of command. The weird pack slunk silently from
view, and the girl backed hesitantly away as if to follow them, but
halted abruptly at Carver's word. Her attitude was a curious one, partly
fear, but more largely composed, it seemed, of a sort of fascination, as
if she did not quite understand the zoologist's nature.

This was a feeling he shared to a certain extent, for there was
certainly something mysterious in encountering a white girl on this mad
Austin Island. It was as if there were one specimen, and only one, of
every species in the world here on this tiny islet, and she were the
representative of humanity. But still he frowned perplexedly into her
wild, amber eyes.

It occurred to him again that on the part of Austin he had traversed he
had seen no two creatures alike. Was this girl, too, a mutant, a variant
of some species other than human, who had through mere chance adopted a
perfect human form? As, for instance, the doglike cat whose body still
lay on the sand where he had flung it. Was she, perhaps, the sole
representative of the human form on the island, Eve before Adam, in the
garden? There had been a woman before Adam, he mused.

"We'll call you Lilith," he said thoughtfully. The name fitted her wild,
perfect features and her flame-hued eyes. Lilith, the mysterious being
whom Adam found before him in Paradise, before Eve was created.
"Lilith," he repeated. "Alan--Lilith. See?"

She echoed the sounds and the gesture. Without question she accepted the
name he had given her, and that she understood the sound as a name was
evident by her response to it. For when he uttered it a few minutes
later, her amber eyes flashed instantly to his face and remained in a
silent question.

Carver laughed and resumed his puzzled thoughts. Reflectively, he
produced his pipe and packed it, then struck a match and lighted it. He
was startled by a low cry from the girl Lilith, and looked up to see her
extended hand. For a moment he failed to perceive what she sought, and
then her fingers closed around the hissing stem of the match! She had
tried to seize the flame as one takes a fluttering bit of cloth.

She screamed in pain and fright. At once the pack of nondescripts
appeared at the edge of the forest, voicing their howls of anger, and
Carver whirled again to meet them. But again Lilith, recovering from the
surprise of the burn, halted the pack with her voice, and sent them
slinking away into the shadows. She sucked her scorched fingers and
turned widened eyes to his face. He realized with a start of disbelief
that the girl did not comprehend fire!

There was a bottle of alcohol in the box of equipment; he produced it
and, taking Lilith's hand, bound a moistened strip of handkerchief about
her two blistered fingers, though he knew well enough that alcohol was a
poor remedy for burns. He applied the disinfectant to the bullet graze
on her knee; she moaned softly at the sting, then smiled as it lessened,
while her strange amber eyes followed fixedly the puffs of smoke from
his pipe, and her nostrils quivered to the pungent tobacco odor.

"Now what," queried Carver, smoking reflectively, "am I going to do with

Lilith had apparently no suggestion. She simply continued her wide-eyed

"At least," he resumed, "you ought to know what's good to eat on this
crazy island. You _do_ eat, don't you?" He pantomimed the act.

The girl understood instantly. She rose, stepped to the spot where the
body of the doglike cat lay, and seemed for an instant to sniff its
scent. Then she removed the wooden knife from her girdle, placed one
bare foot upon the body, and hacked and tore a strip of flesh from it.
She extended the bloody chunk to him, and was obviously surprised at his
gesture of refusal.

After a moment she withdrew it, glanced again at his face, and set her
own small white teeth in the meat. Carver noted with interest how
daintily she managed even that difficult maneuver, so that her soft lips
were not stained by the slightest drop of blood.

But his own hunger was unappeased. He frowned over the problem of
conveying his meaning, but at last hit upon a means. "Lilith!" he said
sharply. Her eyes flashed at once to him. He indicated the meat she
held, then waved at the mysterious line of trees. "Fruit," he said.
"Tree meat. See?" He went through the motions of eating.

Again the girl understood instantly. It was odd, he mused, how readily
she comprehended some things, while others equally simple seemed utterly
beyond her. Queer, as everything on Austin Island was queer. Was Lilith,
after all, entirely human? He followed her to the tree line, stealing a
sidelong look at her wild, flame-colored eyes, and her features,
beautiful, but untamed, dryadlike, elfin--wild.

She scrambled up the crumbling embankment and seemed to vanish magically
into the shadows. For a moment Carver felt a surge of alarm as he
clambered desperately after her; she could elude him here as easily as
if she were indeed a shadow herself. True, he had no moral right to
restrain her, save the hardly tenable one given by her attack; but he
did not want to lose her--not yet. Or perhaps not at all.

"Lilith!" he shouted as he topped the cliff.

She appeared almost at his elbow. Above them twined a curious vine like
a creeping conifer of some kind, bearing white-greenish fruits the size
and shape of a pullet's egg. Lilith seized one, halved it with agile
fingers, and raised a portion to her nostrils. She sniffed carefully,
daintily, then flung the fruit away.

"_Pah bo!_" she said, wrinkling her nose distastefully.

She found another sort of queerly unprepossessing fruit composed of five
finger-like protuberances from a fibrous disk, so that the whole bore
the appearance of a large, malformed hand. This she sniffed as carefully
as she had the other, then smiled sidewise up at him.

"_Bo!_" she said, extending it.

Carver hesitated. After all, it was not much more than an hour ago that
the girl had been trying to kill him. Was it not entirely possible that
she was now pursuing the same end, offering him a poisonous fruit?

She shook the unpleasantly bulbous object. "_Bo!_" she repeated, and
then, exactly as if she understood his hesitancy, she broke off one of
the fingers and thrust it into her own mouth. She smiled at him.

"Good enough, Lilith." He grinned, taking the remainder.

It was much pleasanter to the tongue than to the eye. The pulp had a
tart sweetness that was vaguely familiar to him, but he could not quite
identify the taste. Nevertheless, encouraged by Lilith's example, he ate
until his hunger was appeased.

The encounter with Lilith and her wild pack had wiped out thoughts of
his mission. Striding back toward the beach he frowned, remembering that
he was here as Alan Carver, zoologist, and in no other role. Yet--where
could he begin? He was here to classify and to take specimens, but what
was he to do on a mad island where _every_ creature was of an unknown
variety? There was no possibility of classification here, because there
were no classes. There was only one of everything--or so it appeared.

Rather than set about a task futile on the very face of it, Carver
turned his thoughts another way. Somewhere on Austin was the secret of
this riotous disorder, and it seemed better to seek the ultimate key
than to fritter away his time at the endless task of classifying. He
would explore the island. Some strange volcanic gas, he mused vaguely,
or some queer radioactive deposit--analogous to Morgan's experiments
with X-rays on germ plasm. Or--or something else. There must be _some_

"Come on, Lilith," he ordered, and set off toward the west, where the
hill seemed to be higher than the opposing eminence at the island's
eastern extremity.

The girl followed with her accustomed obedience, with her honey-hued
eyes fastened on Carver in that curious mixture of fear, wonder,
and--perhaps--a dawning light of worship.

The zoologist was not too preoccupied with the accumulation of mysteries
to glance occasionally at the wild beauty of her face, and once he
caught himself trying to picture her in civilized attire--her mahogany
hair confined under one of the current tiny hats, her lithe body
sheathed in finer textile than the dried and cracking skin she wore, her
feet in dainty leather, and her ankles in chiffon. He scowled and thrust
the visualization away, but whether because it seemed too anomalous or
too attractive he did not trouble to analyze.

He turned up the slope. Austin was heavily wooded, like the Aucklands,
but progress was easy, for it was through a forest, not a jungle. A mad
forest, true enough, but still comparatively clear of underbrush.

A shadow flickered, then another. But the first was only a queen's
pigeon, erecting its glorious feather crest, and the second only an owl
parrot. The birds on Austin were normal; they were simply the ordinary
feathered life of the southern seas. Why? Because they were mobile; they
traveled, or were blown by storms, from island to island.

It was mid-afternoon before Carver reached the peak, where a solemn
outcropping of black basalt rose treeless, like a forester's watchtower.
He clambered up its eroded sides and stood with Lilith beside him,
gazing out across the central valley of Austin Island to the hill at the
eastern point, rising until its peak nearly matched their own.

Between sprawled the wild forest, in whose depths blue-green shadows
shifted in the breeze like squalls visible here and there on the surface
of a calm lake. Some sort of soaring bird circled below, and far away,
in the very center of the valley, was the sparkle of water. That, he
knew must be the rivulet he had already visited. But nowhere--nowhere at
all--was there any sign of human occupation to account for the presence
of Lilith--no smoke, no clearing, nothing.

The girl touched his arm timidly, and gestured toward the opposite hill.

"_Pah bo!_" she said tremulously. It must have been quite obvious to her
that he failed to understand, for she amplified the phrase. "_R-r-r-r!_"
she growled, drawing her perfect lips into an imitation of a snarl.
"_Pah bo, lay shot_." She pointed again toward the east.

Was she trying to tell him that some fierce beasts dwelt in that region?
Carver could not interpret her symbolism in any other way, and the
phrase she had used was the same she had applied to the poisonous fruit.

He narrowed his eyes as he gazed intently toward the eastern eminence,
then started. There was something, not on the opposing hill, but down
near the flash of water midway between.

At his side hung the prism binoculars he used for identifying birds. He
swung the instrument to his eyes. What he saw, still not clearly enough
for certainty, was a mound or structure, vine-grown and irregular. But
it might be the roofless walls of a ruined cottage.

The sun was sliding westward. Too late in the day now for exploration,
but to-morrow would do. He marked the place of the mound in his memory,
then scrambled down.

As darkness approached, Lilith began to evince a curious reluctance to
move eastward, hanging back, sometimes dragging timidly at his arm.
Twice she said "No, no!" and Carver wondered whether the word was part
of her vocabulary or whether she had acquired it from him. Heaven knew,
he reflected amusedly, that he had used the word often enough, as one
might use it to a child.

He was hungry again, despite the occasional fruits Lilith had plucked
for him. On the beach he shot a magnificent Cygnus Atratus, a black
Australian swan, and carried it with its head dragging, while Lilith,
awed by the shot, followed him now without objection.

He strode along the beach to his box; not that that stretch was any more
desirable than the next, but if Kolu and Malloa were to return, or were
to guide a rescue expedition from the _Fortune_, that was the spot
they'd seek first.

He gathered driftwood, and, just as darkness fell, lighted a fire.

He grinned at Lilith's start of panic and her low "O-o-oh!" of sheer
terror as the blaze of the match caught and spread. She remembered her
scorched fingers, doubtless, and she circled warily around the flames,
to crouch behind him where he sat plucking and cleaning the great bird.

She was obviously quite uncomprehending as he pierced the fowl with a
spit and set about roasting it, but he smiled at the manner in which her
sensitive nostrils twitched at the combined odor of burning wood and
cooking meat.

When it was done, he cut her a portion of the flesh, rich and fat like
roast goose, and he smiled again at her bewilderment. She ate it, but
very gingerly, puzzled alike by the heat and the altered taste; beyond
question she would have preferred it raw and bleeding. When she had
finished, she scrubbed the grease very daintily from her fingers with
wet sand at a tidal pool.

Carver was puzzling again over what to do with her. He didn't want to
lose her, yet he could hardly stay awake all night to guard her. There
were the ropes that had lashed his case of supplies; he could, he
supposed, tie her wrists and ankles; but somehow the idea appealed to
him not at all. She was too naive, too trusting, too awe-struck and
worshipful. And besides, savage or not, she was a white girl over whom
he had no conceivable rightful authority.

At last he shrugged and grinned across the dying fire at Lilith, who had
lost some of her fear of the leaping flames. "It's up to you," he
remarked amiably. "I'd like you to stick around, but I won't insist on

She answered his smile with her own quick, flashing one, and the gleam
of eyes exactly the color of the flames they mirrored, but she said
nothing. Carver sprawled in the sand; it was cool enough to dull the
activities of the troublesome sand fleas, and after a while he slept.

His rest was decidedly intermittent. The wild chorus of night sounds
disturbed him again with its strangeness, and he woke to see Lilith
staring fixedly into the fire's dying embers. Some time later he
awakened again; now the fire was quite extinct, but Lilith was standing.
While he watched her silently, she turned toward the forest. His heart
sank; she was leaving.

But she paused. She bent over something dark--the body of one of the
creatures he had shot. The big one, it was; he saw her struggle to lift
it, and, finding the weight too great, drag it laboriously to the coral
spit and roll it into the sea.

Slowly she returned; she gathered the smaller body into her arms and
repeated the act, standing motionless for long minutes over the black
water. When she returned once more she faced the rising moon for a
moment, and he saw her eyes glistening with tears. He knew he had
witnessed a burial.

He watched her in silence. She dropped to the sand near the black smear
of ashes; but she seemed in no need of sleep. She stared so fixedly and
so apprehensively toward the east that Carver felt a sense of
foreboding. He was about to raise himself to sitting position when
Lilith, as if arriving at a decision after long pondering, suddenly
sprang to her feet and darted across the sand to the trees.

Startled, he stared into the shadows, and out of them drifted that same
odd call he had heard before. He strained his ears, and was certain he
heard a faint yelping among the trees. She had summoned her pack. Carver
drew his revolver quietly from its holster and half rose on his arm.

Lilith reappeared. Behind her, darker shadows against the shadowy
growths, lurked wild forms, and Carver's hand tightened on the grip of
his revolver.

But there was no attack. The girl uttered a low command of some sort,
the slinking shadows vanished, and she returned alone to her place on
the sand.

The zoologist could see her face, silver-pale in the moonlight, as she
glanced at him, but he lay still in apparent slumber, and Lilith, after
a moment, seemed ready to imitate him. The apprehension had vanished
from her features; she was calmer, more confident. Carver realized why,
suddenly; she had set her pack to guard against whatever danger
threatened from the east.

Dawn roused him. Lilith was still sleeping, curled like a child on the
sand, and for some time he stood gazing down at her. She was very
beautiful, and now, with her tawny eyes closed, she seemed much less
mysterious; she seemed no island nymph or dryad, but simply a lovely,
savage, primitive girl. Yet he knew---or he was beginning to
suspect--the mad truth about Austin Island. If the truth were what he
feared, then he might as well fall in love with a sphinx, or a mermaid,
or a female centaur, as with Lilith.

He steeled himself. "Lilith!" he called gruffly.

She awoke with a start of terror. For a moment she faced him with sheer
panic in her eyes; then she remembered, gasped, and smiled tremulously.
Her smile made it very hard for him to remember what it was that he
feared in her, for she looked beautifully and appealingly human save for
her wild, flame-colored eyes, and even what he fancied he saw in those
might be but his own imagining.

She followed him toward the trees. There was no sign of her bestial
bodyguards, though Carver suspected their nearness. He breakfasted again
on fruits chosen by Lilith, selected unerringly, from the almost
infinite variety, by her delicate nostrils. Carver mused interestedly
that smell seemed to be the one means of identifying genera on this
insane island.

Smell is chemical in nature. Chemical differences meant glandular ones,
and glandular differences, in the last analysis, probably accounted for
racial ones. Very likely the differences between a cat, say, and a dog
was, in the ultimate sense, a glandular difference. He scowled at the
thought and stared narrowly at Lilith; but, peer as he might, she seemed
neither more nor less than an unusually lovely little savage--except for
her eyes.

He was moving toward the eastern part of the island, intending to follow
the brook to the site of the ruined cabin, if it _was_ a ruined cabin.
Again he noted the girl's nervousness as they approached the stream that
nearly bisected this part of the valley. Certainly, unless her fears
were sheer superstition, there was something dangerous there. He
examined his gun again, then strode on.

At the bank of the brook Lilith began to present difficulties. She
snatched his arm and tugged him back, wailing, "No, no, no!" in
frightened repetition.

When he glanced at her in impatient questioning, she could only repeat
her phrase of yesterday. "_Lay shot"_ she said, anxiously and fearfully.
"_Lay shot!_"

"Humph!" he growled. "A cannon's the only bird I ever heard of that
could--" He turned to follow the watercourse into the forest.

Lilith hung back. She could not bring herself to follow him there. For
an instant he paused, looking back at her slim loveliness, then turned
and strode on. Better that she remained where she was. Better if he
never saw her again, for she was too beautiful for close proximity. Yet
Heaven knew, he mused, that she _looked_ human enough. But Lilith
rebelled. Once she was certain that he was determined to go on, she gave
a frightened cry. "Alan!" she called. "Al-an!"

He turned, astonished that she remembered his name, and found her
darting to his side. She was pallid, horribly frightened, but she would
not let him go alone.

Yet there was nothing to indicate that this region of the island was
more dangerous than the rest. There was the same mad profusion of
varieties of vegetation, the same unclassifiable leaves, fruits, and
flowers. Only--or he imagined this--there were fewer birds.

One thing slowed their progress. At times the eastern bank of the
rivulet seemed more open than their side, but Lilith steadfastly refused
to permit him to cross. When he tried it, she clung so desperately and
so violently to his arms that he at last yielded, and plowed his way
through the underbrush on his own bank. It was as if the watercourse
were a dividing line, a frontier, or--he frowned--a border.

By noon they had reached a point which Carver knew must be close indeed
to the spot he sought. He peered through the tunnel that arched over the
course of the brook, and there ahead, so overgrown that it blended
perfectly with the forest wall, he saw it.

It was a cabin, or the remains of one. The log walls still stood, but
the roof, doubtless of thatch, had long ago disintegrated. But what
struck Carver first was the certainty, evident in design, in window
openings, in doorway, that this was no native hut. It had been a white
man's cabin of perhaps three rooms.

It stood on the eastern bank; but by now the brook had narrowed to a
mere rill, gurgling from pool to tiny rapids. He sprang across,
disregarding Lilith's anguished cry. But at a glimpse of her face he did
pause. Her magnificent honey-hued eyes were wide with fear, while her
lips were set in a tense little line of grimmest determination. She
looked as an ancient martyr must have looked marching out to face the
lions, as she stepped deliberately across to his side. It was almost as
if she said, "If you are bound to die, then I will die beside you."

Yet within the crumbling walls there was nothing to inspire fear. There
was no animal life at all, except a tiny, ratlike being that skittered
out between the logs at their approach. Carver stared around him at the
grassy and fern grown interior, at the remnants of decaying furniture
and the fallen debris. It had been years since this place had known
human occupants, a decade at the very least.

His foot struck something. He glanced down to see a human skull and a
human femur in the grass. And then other bones, though none of them were
in a natural position. Their former owner must have died there where the
ruined cot sagged, and been dragged here by--well, by whatever it was
that had feasted on human carrion.

He glanced sidewise at Lilith, but she was simply staring affrightedly
toward the east. She had not noticed the bones, or if she had, they had
meant nothing to her. Carver poked gingerly among them for some clue to
the identity of the remains, but there was nothing save a corroded belt
buckle. That, of course, was a little; it had been a man, and most
probably a white man.

Most of the debris was inches deep in the accumulation of loam. He
kicked among the fragments of what must once have been a cupboard, and
again his foot struck something hard and round--no skull this time, but
an ordinary jar.

He picked it up. It was sealed, and there was something in it. The cap
was hopelessly stuck by the corrosion of years; Carver smashed the glass
against a log. What he picked from the fragments was a notebook,
yellowedged and brittle with time. He swore softly as a dozen leaves
disintegrated in his hands, but what remained seemed stronger. He
hunched down on the log and scanned the all-but-obliterated ink.

There was a date and a name. The name was Ambrose Callan, and the date
was October 25th, 1921. He frowned. In 1921 he had been--let's see, he
mused; fifteen years ago--he had been in grade school. Yet the name
Ambrose Callan had a familiar ring to it.

He read more of the faded, written lines, then stared thoughtfully into
space. That _was_ the man, then. He remembered the Callan expedition
because as a youngster he had been interested in far places,
exploration, and adventure, as what youngster isn't? Professor Ambrose
Callan of Northern; he began to remember that Morgan had based some of
his work with artificial species--synthetic evolution--on Callan's

But Morgan had only succeeded in creating a few new species of fruit
fly, of Drosophila, by exposing germ plasm to hard X-rays. Nothing like
this--this madhouse of Austin Island. He stole a look at the tense and
fearful Lilith, and shuddered, for she seemed so lovely--and so human.
He turned his eyes to the crumbling pages and read on, for here at last
he was close to the secret.

He was startled by Lilith's sudden wail of terror. "_Lay shot!_" she
cried. "Alan, _lay shot!_"

He followed her gesture, but saw nothing. Her eyes were doubtless
sharper than his, yet--There! In the deep afternoon shadows of the
forest something moved. For an instant he saw it clearly--a malevolent
pygmy like the cat-eyed horror he had glimpsed drinking from the stream.
Like it? No, the same; it must be the same, for here on Austin no
creature resembled another, nor ever could, save by the wildest of

The creature vanished before he could draw his weapon, but in the
shadows lurked other figures, other eyes that seemed alight with
nonhuman intelligence. He fired, and a curious squawling cry came back,
and it seemed to him that the forms receded for a time. But they came
again, and he saw without surprise the nightmare horde of creatures.

He stuffed the notebook in his pocket and seized Lilith's wrist, for she
stood as if paralyzed by horror. He backed away out of the doorless
entrance, over the narrow brook. The girl seemed dazed, half hypnotized
by the glimpses of the things that followed them. Her eyes were wide
with fear, and she stumbled after him unseeing. He sent another shot
into the shadows.

That seemed to rouse Lilith. "_Lay shot!_" she whimpered, then gathered
her self-control. She uttered her curious call, and somewhere it was
answered, and yet further off, answered again.

Her pack was gathering for her defense, and Carver felt a surge of
apprehension for his own position. Might he not be caught between two

He never forgot that retreat down the course of the little stream. Only
delirium itself could duplicate the wild battles he witnessed, the
unearthly screaming, the death grips of creatures not quite natural,
things that fought with the mad frenzy of freaks and outcasts. He and
Lilith must have been slain immediately save for the intervention of her
pack; they slunk out of the shadows with low, bestial noises, circling
Carver cautiously, but betraying no scrap of caution against--the other

He saw or sensed something that had almost escaped him before. Despite
their forms, whatever their appearance happened to be, Lilith's pack was
doglike. Not in looks, certainly; it was far deeper than that. In
nature, in character; that was it.

And their enemies, wild creatures of nightmare though they were, had
something feline about them. Not in appearance, no more than the others,
but in character and actions. Their method of fighting, for
instance--all but silent, with deadly claw and needle teeth, none of the
fencing of canine nature, but with the leap and talons of feline. But
their aspect, their--their _catness_ was more submerged by their outward
appearance, for they ranged from the semi-human form of the little demon
of the brook to ophidian-headed things as heavy and lithe as a panther.
And they fought with a ferocity and intelligence that was itself

Carver's gun helped. He fired when he had any visible target, which was
none too often; but his occasional hits seemed to instill respect into
his adversaries.

Lilith, weaponless save for stones and her wooden knife, simply huddled
at his side as they backed slowly toward the beach. Their progress was
maddeningly slow, and Carver began to note apprehensively that the
shadows were stretching toward the east, as if to welcome the night that
was sliding around from that half of the world. Night meant--destruction.

If they could attain the beach, and if Lilith's pack could hold the
others at bay until Carver could build a fire, they might survive. But
the creatures that were allied with Lilith were being overcome. They
were hopelessly outnumbered. They were being slain more rapidly with
each one that fell, as ice melts more swiftly as its size decreases.

Carver stumbled backward into orange-tinted sunlight. The beach! The sun
was already touching the coral spit, and darkness was a matter of
minutes---brief minutes.

Out of the brush came the remnants of Lilith's pack, a half dozen
nondescripts, snarling, bloody, panting, and exhausted. For the moment
they were free of their attackers, since the catlike fiends chose to
lurk among the shadows. Carver backed farther away, feeling a sense of
doom as his own shadow lengthened in the brief instant of twilight that
divided day from night in these latitudes. And then swift darkness came
just as he dragged Lilith to the ridge of the coral spit.

He saw the charge impending. Weird shadows detached themselves from the
deeper shadows of the trees. Below, one of the nondescripts whined
softly. Across the sand, clear for an instant against the white ground
coral of the beach, the figure of the small devil with the half-human
posture showed, and a malevolent sputtering snarl sounded. It was
exactly as if the creature had leaped forward like a leader to exhort
his troops to charge.

Carver chose that figure as his target. His gun flashed; the snarl
became a squawl of agony, and the charge came.

Lilith's pack crouched; but Carver knew that this was the end. He fired.
The flickering shadows came on. The magazine emptied; there was no time
now to reload, so he reversed the weapon, clubbed it. He felt Lilith
grow tense beside him.

And then the charge halted. In unison, as if at command, the shadows
were motionless, silent save for the low snarling of the dying creature
on the sand. When they moved again, it was away--toward the trees!

Carver gulped. A faint shimmering light on the wall of the forest caught
his eye, and he spun. It was true! Down the beach, down there where he
had left his box of supplies, a fire burned, and rigid against the
light, facing toward them in the darkness, were human figures. The
unknown peril of fire had frightened off the attack. He stared. There in
the sea, dark against the faint glow of the West, was a familiar
outline. The _Fortune!_ The men there were his associates; they had
heard his shots and lighted the fire as a guide.

"Lilith!" he choked. "Look there. Come on!"

But the girl held back. The remnant of her pack slunk behind the shelter
of the ridge of coral, away from the dread fire. It was no longer the
fire that frightened Lilith, but the black figures around it, and Alan
Carver found himself suddenly face to face with the hardest decision of
his life.

He could leave her here. He knew she would not follow, knew it from the
tragic light in her honey-hued eyes. And beyond all doubt that was the
best thing to do; for he could not marry her. Nobody could ever marry
her, and she was too lovely to take among men who might love her--as
Carver did. But he shuddered a little as a picture flashed in his mind.
Children! What sort of children would Lilith bear? No man could dare
chance the possibility that Lilith, too, was touched by the curse of
Austin Island.

He turned sadly away--a step, two steps, toward the fire. Then he

"Come, Lilith," he said gently, and added mournfully, "other people have
married, lived, and died without children. I suppose we can, too."

The _Fortune_ slid over the green swells, northward toward New Zealand.
Carver grinned as he sprawled in a deck chair. Halburton was still
gazing reluctantly at the line of blue that was Austin Island.

"Buck up, Vance," Carver chuckled. "You couldn't classify that flora in
a hundred years, and if you could, what'd be the good of it? There's
just one of each, anyway."

"I'd give two toes and a finger to try," said Halburton. "You had the
better part of three days there, and might have had more if you hadn't
winged Malloa. They'd have gone home to the Chathams sure, if your shot
hadn't got his arm. That's the only reason they made for Macquarie."

"And lucky for me they did. Your fire scared off the cats."

"The cats, eh? Would you mind going over the thing again, Alan? It's so
crazy that I haven't got it all yet."

"Sure. Just pay attention to teacher and you'll catch on." He grinned.
"Frankly, at first I hadn't a glimmering of an idea myself. The whole
island seemed insane. No two living things alike! Just one of each
genus, and all unknown genera at that. I didn't get a single clue until
after I met Lilith. Then I noticed that she differentiated by smell. She
told good fruits from poisonous ones by the smell, and she even
identified that first cat-thing I shot by smell. She'd eat that because
it was an enemy, but she wouldn't touch the dog-things I shot from her

"So what?" asked Halburton, frowning.

"Well, smell is a chemical sense. It's much more fundamental than
outward form, because the chemical functioning of an organism depends on
its glands. I began to suspect right then that the fundamental nature of
all living things on Austin Island was just the same as anywhere else.
It wasn't the _nature_ that was changed, but just the _form_. See?"

"Not a bit."

"You will. You know what chromosomes are, of course. They're the
carriers of heredity, or rather, according to Weissman, they carry the
genes that carry the determinants that carry heredity. A human being has
forty-eight chromosomes, of which he gets twenty-four from each parent."

"So," said Halburton, "has a tomato."

"Yes, but a tomato's forty-eight chromosomes carry a different heredity,
else one could cross a human being with a tomato. But to return to the
subject, all variations in individuals come about from the manner in
which chance shuffles these forty-eight chromosomes with their load of
determinants. That puts a pretty definite limit on the possible

"For instance, eye color has been located on one of the genes on the
third pair of chromosomes. Assuming that this gene contains twice as
many brown-eye determinants as blue-eye ones, the chances are two to one
that the child of whatever man or woman owns that particular chromosome
will be brown-eyed--_if_ his mate has no marked bias either way. See?"

"I know all that. Get along to Ambrose Callan and his notebook."

"Coming to it. Now remember that these determinants carry _all_
heredity, and that includes shape, size, intelligence, character,
coloring--everything. People--or plants and animals--can vary in the
vast number of ways in which it is possible to combine forty-eight
chromosomes with their cargo of genes and determinants. But that number
is not infinite. There are limits, limits to size, to coloring, to
intelligence. Nobody ever saw a human race with sky-blue hair, for

"Nobody'd ever want to!" grunted Halburton.

"And," proceeded Carver, "that is because there are no blue-hair
determinants in human chromosomes. But--and here comes Callan's
idea--suppose we could increase the number of chromosomes in a given
ovum. What then? In humans or tomatoes, if, instead of forty-eight,
there were four hundred eighty, the possible range of variation would be
ten times as great as it is now.

"In size, for instance, instead of the present possible variation of
about two and a half feet, they might vary twenty-five feet! And in
shape--a man might resemble almost anything! That is, almost anything
within the range of the mammalian orders. And in intelligence--" He
paused thoughtfully.

"But how," cut in Halburton, "did Callan propose to accomplish the feat
of inserting extra chromosomes? Chromosomes themselves are microscopic;
genes are barely visible under the highest magnification, and nobody
ever saw a determinant."

"I don't know how," said Carver gravely. "Part of his notes crumbled to
dust, and the description of his method must have gone with those pages.
Morgan uses hard radiations, but his object and his results are both
different. He doesn't change the number of chromosomes."

He hesitated. "I think Callan used a combination of radiation and
injection," he resumed. "I don't know. All I know is that he stayed on
Austin four or five years, and that he came with only his wife. That
part of his notes is clear enough. He began treating the vegetation near
his shack, and some cats and dogs he had brought. Then he discovered
that the thing was spreading like a disease."

"Spreading?" echoed Halburton.

"Of course. Every tree he treated strewed multi-chromosomed pollen to
the wind, and as for the cats--Anyway, the aberrant pollen fertilized
normal seeds, and the result was another freak, a seed with the normal
number of chromosomes from one parent and ten times as many from the
other. The variations were endless. You know how swiftly kauri and tree
ferns grow, and these had a possible speed of growth ten times as great.

"The freaks overran the island, smothering out the normal growths. And
Callan's radiations, and perhaps his injections, too, affected Austin
Island's indigenous life--the rats, the bats. They began to produce
mutants. He came in 1918, and by the time he realized his own tragedy,
Austin was an island of freaks where no child resembled its parents save
by the merest chance."

"His own tragedy? What do you mean?"

"Well, Callan was a biologist, not an expert in radiation. I don't know
exactly what happened. Exposure to X-rays for long periods produces
burns, ulcers, malignancies. Maybe Callan didn't take proper precautions
to shield his device, or maybe he was using a radiation of peculiarly
irritating quality. Anyway, his wife sickened first--an ulcer that
turned cancerous.

"He had a radio--a wireless, rather, in 1921--and he summoned his sloop
from the Chathams. It sank off that coral spit, and Callan, growing
desperate, succeeded somehow in breaking his wireless. He was no
electrician, you see.

"Those were troubled days, after the close of the War. With Callan's
sloop sunk, no one knew exactly what had become of him, and after a
while he was forgotten. When his wife died, he buried her; but when he
died there was no one to bury him. The descendants of what had been his
cats took care of him, and that was that."

"Yeah? What about Lilith?"

"Yes," said Carver soberly. "What about her? When I began to suspect the
secret of Austin Island, that worried me. Was Lilith really quite human?
Was she, too, infected by the taint of variation, so that her children
might vary as widely as the offspring of the--cats? She spoke not a word
of any language I knew--or I thought so, anyway--and I simply couldn't
fit her in. But Callan's diary and notes did it for me."


"She's the daughter of the captain of Callan's sloop, whom he rescued
when it was wrecked on the coral point. She was five years old then,
which makes her almost twenty now. As for language--well, perhaps I
should have recognized the few halting words she recalled. _C'm on_, for
instance, was _comment_--that is, 'how?' And _pah bo_ was simply _pas
bon_, not good. That's what she said about the poisonous fruit. And _lay
shot_ was _les chats_, for somehow she remembered, or sensed, that the
creatures from the eastern end were cats.

"About her, for fifteen years, centered the dog creatures, who despite
their form were, after all, dogs by nature, and loyal to their mistress.
And between the two groups was eternal warfare."

"But are you sure Lilith escaped the taint?"

"Her name's Lucienne," mused Carver, "but I think I prefer Lilith." He
smiled at the slim figure clad in a pair of Jameson's trousers and his
own shirt, standing there in the stern looking back at Austin. "Yes, I'm
sure. When she was cast on the island, Callan had already destroyed the
device that had slain his wife and was about to kill him. He wrecked his
equipment completely, knowing that in the course of time the freaks he
had created were doomed."


"Yes. The normal strains, hardened by evolution, are stronger. They're
already appearing around the edges of the island, and some day Austin
will betray no more peculiarities than any other remote islet. Nature
always reclaims her own."


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