HAKLUYT

Next day work resumed as usual, Hakluyt assisting, or, at least,
standing by to watch the proceedings.

The mutineers had destroyed nothing. All the shell that had been taken
since the beginning of the work was intact, and the oysters that lay
awaiting search when the revolt broke out were still there, lying
where they had been left. As though fate wished to stimulate Hakluyt’s
interest in the business on this the first day of resumption of work
the take proved to be exceptionally good. Three large pearls of good
size and form came to hand besides several of less value.

“You mustn’t reckon every day’s take by this,” said Schumer. “Often
there’s nothing much. In this business it’s the take of a week or month
that counts.”

“All the same it is good,” said Hakluyt. He spoke as though there
were some obstruction in his nasal organ, and Floyd, listening to him
and watching him, felt more than ever the aversion for him that had
influenced him so powerfully on their first meeting.

Hakluyt watched all the proceedings just as a predatory bird
watches its prey. He stood with his thumbs in the armholes of his
waistcoat–his favorite attitude–a cigar in his mouth, and his panama
hat tilted back.

He had a habit of thrusting his head forward, tortoise-like–one
might have fancied that his neck was telescopic like the neck of a
tortoise–and continually he kept drumming on his chest with his finger
tips. On the middle finger of his left hand he wore a huge ring set
with a diamond, an adornment that did not match with the shabby suit
of white drill that flapped about him in the wind, showing to full
disadvantage the thinness of his legs and arms and the protuberance of
his stomach.

“That chap,” thought Floyd to himself, “would do anything short of
murder–and maybe wouldn’t stop at that.”

Isbel also did not seem to have much liking for Hakluyt.

With the return of Schumer, Isbel had gone right back to her previous
position in the social scale of the island and also to her home in the
grove. She helped in the cooking as before, and she kept watch for
ships when Floyd and his companions were over at the fishing grounds,
but beyond that she had little to do with them.

From the moment of the landing of Schumer she had avoided Floyd. It was
as though a veil had suddenly fallen between them after that moment
when suddenly released from death she had clung to him as they stood
watching the _Southern Cross_ casting anchor. She had drawn away, and
now it was as though nothing had ever been between them at all, as
though they had never fought together and lived together and faced
death together.

Floyd, simple soul, could not understand her in the least. At first he
was perplexed, thought he had done something to offend her, and tried
to imagine what it could be. Then he sulked–turned his head away when
she drew near and avoided speaking to her.

One day, a week after the return of Schumer, he was on the windward
side of the reef behind the grove and the house. Schumer and Hakluyt
were over at the fishing camp. It was an hour before noon, and he had
finished the work he had been upon and was seated on a lump of coral
watching the breakers coming in, a wonderful vision of sunlit foam.

The breeze brought the spray almost to his feet, and a scent of ozone
and seaweed and salt that seemed to come from the very heart of the sea.

As he sat like this a shadow fell on the coral before him, and,
turning, he saw Isbel.

She sat down beside him.

He had been thinking of her, and nothing could have surprised him more
than this action of hers in coming and sitting beside him. He moved
slightly as though to make room for her, and then turned his face
seaward again.

A frigate bird was approaching the island, moving without an effort on
the wind. They watched it as it came along. Its shadow passed over them
and vanished, and Floyd, turning his head to take a last look at the
bird, found himself face to face with his companion.

Isbel had not spoken a word, but now, as their eyes met, her lips
moved as though she were whispering something to herself impossible
to say aloud. She seemed like a person in a trance, and her eyes,
wide-pupiled and fixed on those of her companion, seemed trying to
tell something impossible to tell by speech.

Next moment he had taken her in his arms. For a moment she resisted
slightly, as though that soul, strange and free as the soul of the sea
bird, were struggling feebly against the final capture of man.

Then she raised her lips to his.

You may also like