Sample N21 from C. T. Sommers, "The Beautiful Mankillers of Eromonga," Cavalcade (October, 1961), 60, 62. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,019 words 573 (28.4%) quotesN21

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C. T. Sommers, "The Beautiful Mankillers of Eromonga," Cavalcade (October, 1961), 60, 62.

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Sulphur , oil , and copra make the kind of tinder any firebug dreams of . I suppose a Lascar sailor had sneaked a cigarette in the hold and touched off the blaze . Now , roaring up in great oily clouds of smoke and flames , the fierce heat quickly drove us to the stern where we huddled like suffocating sheep , not knowing what to do .

The lifeboats were stuck fast . We couldn't budge them . I heard a cry from a stoker as a pillar of flame leaped from a hatch and tongued the man's bare back . He sprinted to the rail and leaped overboard into the shark-infested waters .

One especially bad detonation shook Lifeboat No. 3 which trembled violently in the davits . Brassnose yelled : `` Come on , Sommers , Max step on it , we got a chance now . Heave on those ropes ; ; the boat's come unstuck '' .

We pulled and swore and yanked and wept , scraping our hands until they bled profusely . The Bonaventure was quivering and lurching like an old spavined mare . Her stern was down and a sharp list helped us to cut loose the lifeboat which dropped heavily into the water .

Brassnose , Max and I leaped into the sea and swam to the boat . `` Let's get away fast '' , said Brassnose , shaking water from his mop of bleached hair . `` That tub is going to explode all at once '' .

Then the Bonaventure seemed to disintegrate with a roar of live steam , geysers of sparks and flames , and a dense cloud of black-and-orange smoke . Dimly , we heard the voices of men in mortal agony but we couldn't go back into that inferno .

Already our leaky lifeboat was filled with five inches of water . `` Sommers , you bale while we row '' , Brassnose commanded .

As best as I could determine , we were some 700 miles west of New Guinea , in the Bismark Archipelago . Three days previously , we had steamed past barren Rennell Island in the distance . Now we peered anxiously for any speck of land in the Pacific , for this interminable bailing would have to stop soon . There were gigantic blisters and rope burns on our hands ; ; our muscles were hot wires of pain .

Brassnose was strangely silent . The big man with the whitened hair murmured something : his words sounded as if they were in the Manu tongue , which I recognized , having studied the dialect in my Anthropology 6 , class at the University of Chicago .

He then said something which struck a chord in my memory .

`` God help us if we're near the island of Eromonga . We'd be in real trouble then . I'd rather keep bailing -- or sink '' .

I was puzzled by the remark , then I recalled the voice of mild Professor Howard Griggs three years ago in a university lecture on primitive societies . He had been speaking of this archipelago :

`` Even when the islands were under German mandate before World War 1 , , Europeans gave Eromonga a wide berth . The place is inhabited by several hundred warlike women who are anachronisms of the Twentieth Century -- stone age amazons who live in an all-female , matriarchal society which is self-sufficient '' .

I remembered , too , the jesting voice of a classmate , Bobby Pauson : `` But how do they reproduce , Dr. Griggs ? ? I'm sure that males have something to do with that process '' ! !

There had been classroom guffaws which quickly subsided as Professor Griggs said dryly : `` I see your point , Pauson . Of course , males play a role there , but believe me when I say you wouldn't enjoy yourself one bit on Eromonga . Indeed , you wouldn't live long , for the females either drive the men they've seized from neighboring islands back to their boats after exploiting them for amatory purposes , or they destroy them by revolting but ingenious methods . In fact , one important aspect of their very religion is the annihilation of men '' .

`` I think I know what you mean , Brassnose '' , I said . `` I know something about Eromonga . Let's hope we come to a safer place '' .

But we didn't . Three hours later , while we were bailing desperately , a dot of land came into view . Foster Lukuklu Frayne made a sign over his heart with his two linked thumbs : I recognized it as an ancient Manu gesture intended to propitiate the Devil .

A half-hour passed ; ; we had drifted closer . In a voice so frightened as to seem not his own , the big bo'sun's mate quavered :

`` Tchalo ! ! It is Eromonga -- look hard , you can see with your naked eye the wooden scaffolding on the cliff '' .

I squinted at the looming shoreline . There was a wooden tower or derrick there , something like a ski jump ; ; it was perhaps 80 feet high and had been artfully constructed of logs . A fine example of engineering in a primitive society .

`` What is the scaffolding for , Brassnose '' ? ?

He made a sound of despair deep in his throat . It was embarrassing to see strapping , blonde Brassnose comport himself like a child who talks about bogeymen .

`` Aaa-ee ! ! It is their tultul , the ' jumping platform ' of death . It is the last of the three tests of manhood which the women impose , to discover if a male is worthy of survival there . Often , I heard my uncles and cousins speak of it when I was a small boy growing up in Rabaul . They had never seen a tultul but they had heard about it from their fathers '' .

Our lifeboat was filling rapidly and despite what I had heard of the inhabitants of Eromonga , I was glad to see a long and graceful outrigger manned by three bronzed girls glide out of a lagoon into the open sea and toward our craft .

I expected Brassnose -- as a man with a strain of Melanesian in his blood -- to speak to them . But he had turned a sickly green and appeared tongue-tied or panicked .

So , I mustered my few words of the Manu dialect and said , `` We greet you in peace . In ngandlu . My friends and I come from a ship which was destroyed by fire . We are thirsty and hungry ; ; our sore and burned hands and arms need attention '' .

The girl in the prow of the outrigger turned a smile like a beacon on me . I noted that her full breasts were bare and that she wore a garland of red pandanus fruit in her blue-black hair .

She said , `` My name is Songau and these girls are Ponkob and Piwen . You are welcome to Eromonga . My people await you on the shore . You shall have food , water and rest '' .

Thirty minutes later , the outrigger grated on sand and other girls , waiting on shore , rushed forward to pull it up on the beach and make it fast with vine ropes to a large boulder . I saw a dozen or so other outriggers moored there .

I looked . All my rosy visions of rest and even pleasure on this island vanished at the sight . There was a mound of bleached human bones and skulls at the base of the big wooden derrick . Some had been there for years ; ; others still had whitened shreds of decayed flesh sticking to them .

There was one object which sickened yet fascinated me . This was also a corpse -- a male , judging from the coral arm bands , the tribal scars still discernible on the maggoty face , the painted bone of the warrior caste which still pierced the septum of the rotting nose .

The body may have been two or three weeks' dead . I looked with revulsion at the legs . They were shattered . Many small bones protruded crazily from the shreds of flesh . The man must have leaped to his death from the topmost rung of the tultul .

As if divining my thoughts , the girl Songau smiled warmly and said in the casual tone an American woman might use in describing her rose garden :

`` This is our tultul , a jumping platform , aku . Later , you shall know it better . Is it not well-made ? ? Our old one blew down in a storm at the time of the pokeneu festival fifteen moons ago . It took thirty of our women almost six moons to build this one , which is higher and stronger than the old one . We are very proud of it '' .

`` You have every right to be '' , I replied gravely in the Manu dialect , but my attention was fixed on Brassnose , the biggest and strongest of us . He looked as if he was going to keel over . I felt a queasiness in my own stomach but it wouldn't do to show these girls that we were afraid . Not so soon , anyway .

I clapped the big man with the bleached hair on his shoulder and said heartily , hoping it would make an impression on the women : `` This one is the maku Frayne . He speaks your language too , for he is the grandson of a chieftain on Taui who made much magic and was strong and cunning . The maku Frayne has inherited this strength from his grandfather '' .

This was the worst thing I could have said . Brassnose turned a stricken face toward me and said brokenly , `` Sommers , you meddling Yank , you're a fool ! ! They despise males who brag of their strength ; ; they destroy such men with their damned tests . You've ruined me , blast you '' ! !

At first , I thought he was out of his head , talking wildly like this . But a glance at Songau and the other women confirmed what Brassnose had blurted out .

The women's faces had hardened after my statement . At a nod from Songau , four lithe and muscular girls darted to Frayne's side and seized him by the arms . The man was an ox and he put up a creditable struggle ; ; but four Eromonga women are more than a match for the strongest male that ever lived .

Besides , terror had sapped some of Frayne's vitality and will . My last impression as they led him off to a stockade was of his pale face

In the Manu tongue , `` eromonga '' means manhood -- a quality which the women derisively toasted in weekly feasts at which great quantities of a brew like kava were imbibed . In the hut to which I was assigned -- Max had his own quarters -- my food was brought to me by a wrinkled crone with bare drooping breasts who seemed to enjoy conversing with me in rudimentary phrases .

Her name was L'Turu and she told me many things . For an anthropologist , loquacious old L'Turu was a mine of information . Though I had a great dread of the island and felt I would never leave it alive , I eagerly wrote down everything she told me about its women . ( Her account was later confirmed by the Scobee-Frazier Expedition from the University of Manitoba in 1951 .

From L'Turu , I heard that until about 1850 the people of this island -- which was about the size of Guam or smaller -- had been of both sexes , and that the normal family life of Melanesian tribes was observed here with minor variations .

But in the middle of the last century an island woman named `` Karipo '' seized a spear in the heat of an inter-tribal battle and rallied the women after their men had fled . Miraculously , Karipo and her women had succeeded in driving a hundred invaders from the isle of Pamasu back to their war canoes , after considerable loss of life on both sides .

Karipo was something of a politician as well as a militarist . She quickly exploited the exalted position she now occupied , by harassing the disorganized males and even putting many of them to death . Within a decade or less , few men were left and a feminist society had sprung up .

`` Karipo was great goddess , told our mothers that men were not necessary except to father children '' , the crone told me . `` All men went away from here . Those who stayed had to pass tests . Few passed '' . She cackled with mirth , showing the stumps of betel-stained teeth . `` Karipo's women then named this place ' Eromonga ' -- manhood -- for just the strongest men could stay here . Come , I show you '' .

The old woman arose stiffly and led me to a clearing where a small hut stood . In the shade of a palm tree in front of the squalid dwelling I saw four figures in a semi-circle on the ground .