After they had slit the Captain’s throat and dragged every captured member of the crew off into the
forest with hands bound behind their backs, she found herself alone on the beach, surrounded by
curious, tattooed, naked, dark-skinned women. Now what?  Useless though they were, she felt that
soon she would be employing her tiny little fists to defend her person, defend her virtue, defend her
very life.

For the longest time they just stood in a large circle around her, three and four deep at points. They
stood in silence staring at her, as the waves in rhythm lashed the shore marking eternity. She did not
know what to do, caged as she was, she had no experience or even instinct to instruct her. She felt like
she should scream and attempt to break through the crowd and run off, but knew, at the same time,
that it would be useless. She stood there looking back at the tattooed women, trying to weigh their
intention. If they were going to slay her, as their men had the Captain, then what were they waiting for?
There had been no hesitancy when it came to dispatching that poor man.

She looked into the eyes of her captors and could read nothing there beyond curiosity. Was she the
first white woman they had ever seen? The first in a silk dress? The first with her hair up in ribbons? Did
they resent her, fear her, adore her, hate her, wish to tear her into pieces upon that beach and roast
her upon the fires that she knew were ablaze beyond? She looked above their heads—a simple matter,
because she towered so far above them—and saw that the ship was still intact. Why hadn’t they burned
the ship? When she looked back she noticed that at least one of the native island women had a babe in
arms held closely to her breast. This softened her view of the women and repulsed her at once; were
children to take part in whatever foul and murderous thing was about to unfold? Suddenly Nicolette
Joyeuse was faint. She became dizzy, staggered one step, and fell to her knees in the sand.

When she came back to her senses she could not move. She lay on her side with her face pressed into
the sand; she was bound both hand and foot. There was a moon-faced young woman on her knees in
front of her, bending over, looking at her with tilted head and questioning eyes. When Joyeuse opened
her mouth to speak this moon-faced woman placed two fingers across her lips. Then she placed those
same fingers across her own. “But…” began Joyeuse, and the two fingers blocked her speech again.
The woman tapped her own lips twice, nodded as if to ask, “Understand?” and tapped her lips twice
again. Joyeuse’ eyes filled with tears. She sensed that she had found an advocate.

The woman began to untie the binding that held Nicolette’s feet together, and as she was doing that
she took care to brush sand from her captive’s silk dress. Joyeuse just lay there feeling these actions
but with no desire to move, no strength to turn her eyes to witness the kindness. She was then helped
to her feet by several women, who supported her until she could stand on her own. She stood for a
while gulping, catching her breath and watched with some amazement as the throng, in small groups
and one by one, began to disperse. They departed, leaving Joyeuse with three native women at her
These three turned their heads slowly, indicating that Joyeuse should look around, and she did. It was
an idyllic place this island of death. Why she had been spared she did not know, but the various
reasons that filled her mind were all of the most frightening sort. When she looked there anxiously, the
Plinthe was still intact, though apparently she had been taken back out to deeper water and her
anchors set. Dauphins frolicked in the bay. The sky was bright and clear and blue and almost entirely
cloudless. The breeze was gentle, as was the touch of the women who held her hands closely by the
cords that bound her sore and reddened wrists.

Then, suddenly they dropped from sight; all three of them vanished. She looked down to discover them
upon their knees, each of them bent face first toward the sand. She watched with wonder as they each
grabbed a handful of sand and tossed it upon her own back.

What manner of behavior is this? Joyeuse asked herself. There was tugging upon her skirts, and
invitation to join them, but—having just come up from there—that she would not. The tugging became
near frantic before she took the cloth in both hands and yanked it free. Her thinking was, “What on
earth has gotten into these women?”
by: Emma Moonsinger