Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/44

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crack, and she tilted and slid with one wing-tip touching. The propeller whirred more slowly, and stopped.

Murphy was out of the enclosed cockpit cabin immediately.

"Cracked axle as well," he shouted. "But that ain't what's got my goat. look at them lights! Do I see 'em, or am I just plain nuts?"

Captain Ek showed the muscular grace and strength of a boy as he dropped from the open cabin door, then ran over the snow.

"Children of the Light," he howled back at them, his arm pointing to the heavens. "Now do you believe the story I told you back there in San Francisco?"

"Not much children," growled Murphy. "Flappers maybe but nifty. Bathing-girl choruses ain't got a thing on them babies. And if you see 'em, then I ain't loco, Capt'n."

Crayne stared from beside the plane. Bjornson joined him, and the Negro came toward them lifting his fur-clad feet high and treading carefully as if he feared to startle the lowering radiance that swung about the sky and trailed light in wheels and whorls over the ice, and were indubitably shaping to the figures of women, nude except for their gossamers of pulsing hues.

Nearer, closer they came. Crayne saw rosy arms stretch out to join hands, and their fairy feet tripped over the frozen hummocks which glittered under the luminance like jewels. There was sound like ice tinkling in glass, rising to bell chime, and wind of unearthly sweet voices. It took sequence and rhythm and became song. And such song! It chilled and warmed. It was ice and fire contending, whipping blood to flame, pulsing over flesh through their furs, bathing them in exquisite rapturousness. It was as if stars danced and clashed together, the music of the spheres. Under that poignant and sensuous flood of light and sound, they stood dumb. Even the voluble Murphy was silent, and Crayne saw in his eyes the reflection of that light and on his face a weird unearthly expression.

He reached out to touch Murphy's arm, then clutched it. The boy did not move, seemed unaware of his touch.

Spellbound, they gazed, until rapture became painful, the heart-searing ache that is bred of unutterable beauty in those rare moments when flesh stems to drop away and the spirit free itself.

It was Captain Ek who broke the spell, to Crayne's infinite relief. With outstretched arms he ran toward the dancing circle, which parted and drew aside, and down silver luminance like a moon pathway from the flames of the Bowl walked a Titania of the North!

She seemed fashioned of ice tinted like human flesh, yet transparent. Her long fair hair swayed as on a gentle wind and swirled to her bare pink feet. Glittering light draped her from shoulder to ankle, blazing one moment like fabric sewn with diamonds, gleaming like fire the next. A smile of soaring sweetness moved her lips, and a glitter like fallen stars scattered where she moved.

They saw Captain Ek run forward to meet her, saw his uplifted arms and