THE HOUSE

It would be impossible to bring home to your mind, unless you had
experienced it, the vast change which the presence of the _Southern
Cross_ made in the picture of the lagoon. Not on the retinal picture,
but on the mental.

Her presence altered everything. The place became a harbor. Those spars
fretting the sky, that hull making green water beneath its copper
brought civilization up hand over fist from a thousand leagues down
under.

Loneliness had vanished, the crying of the gulls lost its melancholy,
and the sound of the surf on the reef, when one noticed it, no longer
spoke of desolation.

And, just as the schooner altered the lagoon, so did the presence of
her crew and the labor men alter the life on the island.

In a moment life had become all hurry and work.

Isbel reappeared regularly to help in the preparation of their food;
she would be on hand when wanted for any light job, but she never
sat by them now when they talked; she avoided saying a word unless
absolutely obliged to, and when she spoke she no longer looked Floyd in
the eyes.

“She is frightened to death of us and she loathes us,” he thought. “Me
just as much as him. I don’t wonder, either.”

Schumer said nothing on the matter; perhaps he was too busy to notice
the change in the girl. He certainly had his work cut out for him. On
the first day he had to deal with the labor men, showing them their
job. They knew nothing of pearls or the shell business, but they were
like otters in the water, and they picked up the small technicalities
of the labor at once.

Sru especially seemed to take to the work as though born to it, and
Schumer left them under his foremanship and returned to the schooner,
where he had work for the crew.

He wanted a house. He had already picked out the site for it in a
little clearing of the grove well protected by the trees from possible
storms. The wood was ready to his hand in the wreckage of the _Tonga_,
which the lagoon currents had driven into the shoal water of the
southern beach right opposite to the camping place.

Of course he could have cut down trees for his building material, but
every tree in the grove by the camping place was a valuable asset as
a shelter against the weather. To have used any of the timber from
the other groves of the island would have meant not only the labor of
felling and trimming trees, but of floating them off and towing across
the water.

He made Mountain Joe foreman of the new industry, explaining to him
carefully and minutely the whole business. All planking had to be
collected, made into small rafts, and towed across the lagoon. The
whaleboat was used for the purpose, and Schumer accompanied it himself
on the first trip to show exactly what he wanted.

It took two days’ hard work before sufficient planking had been got
together, and then began the business of securing and towing across
the heavy timbers to be used for posts and beams. The whole of this
business from the start of the time when the wood was lying on the sand
near the tent took over a week, during which time the fishery work was
progressing, though in a leisurely manner.

“There we have thirty chaps at work,” said Schumer on the night when
the last of the timber was salved, “and you’d have imagined that they
would have done fifteen times as much work as you and I per day. They
haven’t done more than three times as much. They play about in the
water; they are a bone-lazy lot–well, it doesn’t matter. If we had
half a dozen dependable overseers to superintend the business when it
comes to searching for the pearls it would be different, but there is
only you and me. So it’s no earthly use getting huge quantities of
shell of which we can’t oversee the working properly. Funny thing it
is, but a business has to slow down unless it is perfect in all parts.
Here we have the getters of the raw stuff, and I could speed them up
four times their present rate and we’d skin the lagoon four times as
quick if I had even three more men like you and me to supervise the
getting of the real stuff–which is pearls. Yet if I had those three
men they would want a partnership and so we’d lose in profits. It’s as
broad as it’s long.”

They were sitting by the fire, and Schumer as he talked was putting
finishing touches to a drawing he was making on a leaf of his
pocketbook.

It was the plan for the house.

He had made the sketch more as an exercise for his restless fingers
than anything else.

Nothing could be more simple or rudimentary in the way of a house plan.
The drawing provided for two rooms only, a big room and a little room.
The main door opened on to the big room.

“It won’t be much of a house,” said the architect, as he showed the
drawing, “but still it will be a house, and a house is a most important
thing for us. Shelter! I’d just as soon shelter in the tent; sooner,
but it’s not a question of shelter so much as prestige. It’s like
wearing a clean shirt. You see, if we live the same as our men they’ll
get to think of us as the same, whereas if we live in a house and keep
them under canvas, or in any old huts they are able to make, they think
of us accordingly. The house gets on their mind. It is the symbol of
authority and power. It becomes the government building. There’s a
whole lot in that–more than you would think. Then, besides, we want a
secure place for the pearls. It won’t do to keep them under canvas or
in a hole in the ground. I’m going to build as strong as I can and make
the door to match. We will have loopholes to fire through, in case of
eventualities, though I don’t think they’ll be needed.

“The man who has to depend on defending his position by resisting
attack in his own house is a pretty bad administrator.

“Still one never knows what may happen, and it is as well to be
prepared.”

Continue Reading

THE POWER OF SCHUMER

During it all Floyd had kept his eyes turned away. When the men had
come running aft with the halyard line they had knocked against him,
making him shift his position, and now, with the dead man swinging
aloft, he walked over to the weather side, seemingly an impassive
figure, with his rifle under his arm keeping guard.

As he stood looking over the water to the camping place he saw Isbel.
She had come out on the sands and she was standing with her hand
shading her eyes. She must have been a witness of the whole tragedy,
and she stood, motionless as a figure carved from stone–for a moment.
Then she turned, and just as though something were in pursuit of her,
she ran, making for the grove, into which she disappeared.

Floyd swore under his breath. That the girl should have been allowed to
see such a thing struck him as a monstrous fact. Gentle, kindly, and
willing she had been, almost unknown to himself, the one bright spot in
his life on the island. The one human thing to keep life warm. Schumer
had been a companion who had never grown into anything more than an
acquaintance; Isbel, though he had talked to her as little as he would
have talked to a dog, had been a friend. He did not understand her at
all; she had lived her own life, thought her own thoughts, and said
little; a child living in a child’s world of which he knew nothing, but
she had somehow kept his heart warm, and now she had been allowed to
see _this_, the doing to death of one of her own people in the broad
light of day.

What could she know of the justice of the case? He turned to Schumer,
who had come toward him now that everything was finished, and, taking
him by the arm, led him to the weather rail; they leaned over the rail
as they talked.

“Do you know,” said Floyd, “that child has seen the whole of this
business?”

“What child?”

“Isbel.”

“Well, what of that?”

“What of that? She stood there watching it all, and then she ran off as
if some one were going to kill her. It was brutal to let her see it;
goodness knows she has stuck to us and done everything for us a mortal
could do, and now we repay her by letting her see us hanging one of her
own people.”

Schumer seemed disturbed and irritated by this news.

“One cannot think of everything,” said he; “you speak as though you
were accusing me. Am I to do all the thinking? Well, she has seen what
she has seen, and it cannot be helped, though I would not have had it
for a good deal. That girl may be very useful to us yet, and we do not
want to make an enemy of her. She will brood over this and say nothing,
and then maybe let us have it in the back some time. Well, we cannot
help it; we must remedy it somehow. There is no use in talking about
it with the business we have to do before us. First we must bring
stores and some canvas to make tents for those labor men. Come, we will
get the stuff together now and take it to them in the whaleboat; we
will take two of the crew with us to help to row.”

They rousted out some spare canvas from the sail room of the schooner,
and had it sent into the whaleboat, which was still alongside, with the
two Solomon Islanders who had rowed her out sitting on the thwarts and
staring up at the form dangling overhead.

It seemed to fill them with curiosity, nothing more; yet Floyd noticed
that when Schumer spoke to them they jumped to attention as though they
had been addressed by some powerful chief. The crew also ran about at
his least sign, hauled with all their energy, and hung on his words.

Schumer did not go to the cache for provisions; he opened the
schooner’s lazaret. She was well supplied. Though the mutineers had
killed their officers they had not sacked the provision room and
broached the liquor as they would have done had they been Europeans.

“They were helpless, you see, like a duck with a broken wing,” said
Schumer. “Didn’t know where they were; didn’t know who would catch
them. Kanakas will drink, but they don’t fly to drink like our chaps;
it’s not grained in them.”

They made a selection of tins and had them brought on deck and hoisted
into the boat. Schumer added some sticks of tobacco, and they pushed
off and rowed for the fishing ground.

The laborers waiting on the beach helped them to land. They were a very
subdued lot indeed; the sight of the hanging seemed to have put them
under a spell as far as the white men were concerned, and they worked
at the unlading of the stores without a word, yet with all their energy.

When the stuff was landed, Schumer began to talk to them. He asked them
to choose a foreman, and, having consulted together for a few minutes,
they picked out one of their number–a man with a huge shell ring
through his nostrils, split ear lobes, and scar marks on his chest and
all down his left arm.

Sru was the name of this individual, and Schumer, as he watched him
step out from the ranks, regretted the choice. He suspected that
they had chosen him, not because he was a favorite, but because he
was feared. This is always bad, because in dealing with a mass of
natives–and the same holds good for Europeans–authority has most to
fear from the individual. It is the one man who makes the bother, and
the man who is feared, if he is placed in a position of supremacy, is
more likely to make trouble than the man who is loved.

However, they had chosen a foreman at Schumer’s request, and it
was not for him to interfere with their choice. He set to and gave
them directions as to how they were to make their camp, placed the
provisions and tobacco under charge of the foreman, ordered them to
be ready for work next morning at sunup, and then returned to the
schooner, leaving the two laborers behind with the others.

On board he gave an order for the body to be lowered and cast in the
lagoon, where the sharks were patiently waiting for their prey; then
with Floyd he returned to the camping ground, rowing themselves across
in the ship’s dinghy.

They had left on board the whole native crew with Joe to supervise them.

They beached the dinghy by the quarter boat, and walked up to the tent.
Isbel was nowhere to be seen.

Schumer looked round for her, called, received no answer, and then,
with his own hands, prepared to light the fire and make the supper.

The sun was now low down over the western roof, and the lagoon was
filling with gold; the schooner, freed from the horror dangling at her
yardarm, lay with her anchor chain taut, and the golden ripples of
the incoming tide racing past her sides. She made a beautiful picture
with the sunset light upon her masts and spars, the gulls flying and
flitting about her, crying as they wheeled.

It was the time of the full moon, and she rose with the dark. Schumer
had gone to the tent, where he had placed the letters and papers taken
from the captain’s coat on board the _Southern Cross_. He returned with
them in his hand, and, taking his seat by the embers of the fire, he
began to examine them.

He did not require a lamp; one could have read the smallest print by
the moonlight now flooding the world.

It was a poor enough find. There were half a dozen letters in a woman’s
handwriting, mostly referring to remittances received or expected. The
addresses at the head of them told nothing. “One hundred and two North
Street” was the invariable heading, and for date Monday or Tuesday,
without hint of the month in which they were written. “My dear Joe,”
they began, and the ending was always the same, “Your loving Mary.”
There were no envelopes to give a clew to the town they came from or
the country.

“His loving Mary seemed to have a keen eye for the boodle,” said
Schumer. “Ah–what’s this?” He had opened a letter with the printed
heading: “Hakluyt & Son, Market Street, Sydney.” The letter ran:

DEAR CAPTAIN WALTERS: Owing to Captain Dennison’s illness we are
prepared to offer you the _Southern Cross_, which is now lying in
harbor. If you will call upon us to-morrow at ten-thirty sharp
we will be happy to talk over the matter with you and make all
arrangements.
J. B. for HAKLUYT & SON.

“That was written four months ago,” said Schumer, looking at the date
on the envelope. “They are the owners, and I believe I know Hakluyt
& Son; pair of rogues, as all shipowners are, but they are rich, if
they are the people I take them for; anyhow it’s a good find. We know
the owners. You see, a schooner is not a thing you can pick up like
a purse and put in your pocket. Unless you run her into a port where
there is no law and sell her for the price of old truck what are you
to do with her? Change her name? Well, what about your papers and
your log, and how are you going to muzzle your crew, even if they are
Kanakas? You have boards of trade and port officers everywhere. It’s
one of the troubles of civilization, but it has to be faced. Now, on
the other hand, knowing the owners, we have the law not against us but
on our side. The schooner is practically derelict; if we bring her
into port we can claim compensation. I see a lot of clear sky ahead
in this business if it is properly worked, and we must remember this:
the fish-poisoning business holds good; there’s no use in having
government inquiries, though I don’t even dread those; we tried our
man fairly and we hanged him as an example to the others who seemed
mutinous.”

“Look here,” said Floyd. “I want to say something about that business.
I don’t deny that fellow got what he deserved, but there were others
in the business, and there is no doubt at all that they had a lot of
provocation. But you hanged that man less for what he had done than for
what he might do in the future.”

“Exactly; and to show the others what they might expect, and to show
them that they have got masters over them.”

“You hanged him as a matter of policy.”

“Just so. As a matter of policy first, and as a matter of punishment
second.”

“Well, that’s where I’m against you.”

“How?”

“Killing for policy’s sake. I may be wrong, but it’s against my nature
to hang a chap so as to strike terror into others. However, he is
hanged and done with, and there’s no use saying any more on the matter.”

“Not a bit,” said Schumer, going on with the examination of the papers.
There was nothing else of importance; some receipted bills, some old
letters from chums dated four years back, an envelope with a theater
program in it, and another envelope with a faded photograph of a woman
in a low-necked dress, evidently the photograph of some actress that
had struck Captain Walters’ fancy.

“It’s funny what you find among a man’s belongings,” said Schumer.
“I’ve come across a Bible and a pious letter from his mother in the
leavings of one of the biggest blackguards in the world, and I met
a man who told me he had gone through the gear of a parson who was
laid out on a smallpox ship and found books and pictures that weren’t
holy. This Walters had an eye for a pretty girl, and sent his wife
remittances pretty often; that’s all his remains say of him. I reckon
he was a poor sort, sentimental, with a taste for the bottle and with
no hold on his crew.”

They put the papers away, and Schumer retired to bed, while Floyd,
relighting his pipe, strolled over to the ocean side of the reef. At
night, and especially when the moon was full, this was a place of
terrific loneliness. One heard the voice of the wastes of the sea. He
sat down on a lump of coral and watched the rollers coming in and the
bursting of the foam under the moonlight.

The events of the day had depressed him, yet nothing could have shown
better results, as regards their plans, than the day’s work just
finished. They wanted labor for the fishery, and labor had appeared
on the island as though summoned by a genie. They wanted a ship that
would make no trouble, and here was a schooner floating in the lagoon,
a vessel well found and seaworthy and without eyes or ears to spy on
their doings.

Fortune had turned her face toward them and held out her hand, and had
Floyd been listening to the story of himself and Schumer told as a yarn
his commentary would have been “Lucky beggars!”

The reality was different, and it disclosed the brutality which attends
success, especially the successful attempt to lift treasure that is in
Nature’s keeping.

Nothing could be more fascinating than the idea of raiding one of
Nature’s great banks where she stores her pearls, her diamonds, or her
gold, nothing more trying to all the endurance and good in man than the
prosecution of that great burglary.

The hanging business had hit Floyd a hard blow; more than that, the
thought of Schumer was now beginning to threaten his peace like a
phantom.

The running away of Isbel at the sight of the hanging had suddenly cast
a new light upon Schumer and incidentally upon himself.

It was as though Innocence had spoken, condemning them both. And yet
the man had deserved his fate. Floyd told himself this again and again;
it was the knowledge of this that had prevented him from interfering.
He told himself that, even as a matter of policy and to protect their
own lives against another outbreak headed by the same leader, the
action was justified.

And yet the phantom remained to disturb his thoughts. Schumer, the
man who had bound himself up so closely in his life, the man whom he
did not understand in the least, the man whose personality was so
powerful, whose wishes always made themselves good, and whose word was
practically law on that island.

Schumer was always right; that was part of the origin of his power;
he had the genius to foresee everything that was coming and the head
to prepare for eventualities. His suggestions were commands based
on reason; his orders were worded so as to seem suggestions; his
personality suffused everything, dominated all things, and made Floyd
feel at times as though he were an automaton worked by strings instead
of a living man moved by will.

Yet never had Schumer stirred resentment in him.

That is the most magical power in a great and dominating personality.
It does not irritate; it lulls. Your little strong man gets his
will–if he gets it–by setting everybody by the ears. Your big strong
man works without friction; his men become part of him, his motives
part of them; when they are free to think they may vaguely wonder at
their own subservience and even resent it in a way, yet they come under
again to the will that bends them as surely as the wheat stalks come
under to the wind when it blows.

Floyd, having smoked for a while, tapped the ashes out of his pipe
and rose up. As he was returning to the tent he caught the glimmer of
something white among the outer trees of the grove and came toward it.
It passed among the trees, and he followed it, pushing branches of the
hibiscus aside and trampling down the fern that grew here in profusion.

He was following Isbel, and there, in a little glade amid the ferns,
with her back to an artus tree, crouched in the moonlight, he brought
her to bay.

There was something feline in her attitude, as though she were about to
spring, and her eyes were fixed on him steadfastly as though watching
for his next move.

“Isbel,” he said, speaking loud enough for her to hear, yet not loud
enough to attract the possible attention of Schumer in the tent near
by, “what is the matter with you? Come, I am not going to hurt you.
Don’t you know me?”

He held out his hand, with the finger-tips pressed together, as one
holds out one’s hand to an animal; then he took a step toward her.

She turned and whisked away round the tree, and he heard her movements
among the bushes as she vanished from sight.

He came out of the grove and went back to the tent.

* * * * *

Next morning when he came out of the tent the first thing that struck
his eye was Isbel. She had returned, and was setting the sticks for the
fire as though nothing had occurred. But when her business was done she
vanished again, reappearing only in time to help in the preparation of
the evening meal.

Continue Reading

THE PUNISHMENT

Floyd’s finger went to the trigger of the rifle across his knees. He
expected a sudden attack by the criminal on his accuser, but the man
did nothing.

A murmur went up from the crowd, the sort of murmur that would have
followed the exhibition of a conjuring trick, while Schumer, taking his
man by the arm, led him apart from the rest and made him stand with his
back to the port bulwarks.

“Is what I say true?” he asked, turning to Joe.

He had calculated on everything, and he knew that Joe the informer
would never, never reveal to the others that his–Schumer’s–magic
gift of seeing the truth through men’s skulls was a trick based on
information.

For a moment Joe, between the devil and the deep sea, gazed wildly
round him, then he bent his head in assent.

“So,” said Schumer, then he turned to Floyd. “You are one of the judges
of this man. I am the other, but I am president of this court, and I
have the casting vote–pronounce your sentence.”

“He deserves death,” said Floyd; “but—-”

“But what?”

“I would prefer to isolate him on some part of the island and hand him
over to the first ship.”

Schumer turned to Joe, and, pointing to a whaleboat hanging at the
davits, ordered it to be lowered.

When it was afloat he gave orders for the whole of the labor men to get
into it, telling them that all was clear now that the chief offender
was to be punished, and that no more would be said on the matter, that
their work would be paid for on the terms he had named, and that their
future lot would be happiness, good pay, good food, and plenty of it.

They crowded down into the boat. There were thirty of them, and they
filled it nearly. Then, leaving Floyd on board with Joe and the Kanaka
crew and the criminal, he got into the boat and took his place at the
tiller.

The Solomanders rowed villainously, but they made the whaleboat move,
and Floyd, with one eye on the murderer, who had now taken his seat
on the deck, watched Schumer steering them for the fishing ground and
landing them on the beach.

He landed them, and seemed to be explaining things. Floyd caught
glimpses of him waving his arm about almost as though he were pointing
out the view.

Then with two of them for oarsmen he came back.

Floyd, as Schumer came on deck, felt sick at heart. He hated the crime,
and he hated the sight of the criminal, but he hated even more the idea
of death, and he knew that the man now crouched on the deck was surely
going to die.

Schumer, as he came on deck, seemed Fate itself–calm, cold,
passionless Fate. The judge, the hangman, and the rope all in one.

The Kanakas seemed to guess it; the very brightness of the day seemed
grown paler. Floyd walked to the bulwark rail and looked over at the
boat where the two rowers were seated looking up at the vessel. His
lips were dry. He could do nothing; whatever was going to happen was
deserved, but it was horrible.

He heard Schumer giving his orders for signal halyard line and a block.
The _Southern Cross_ carried a brass cannonade for saluting purposes,
and now he heard Schumer giving orders for it to be loaded.

I have said that the _Southern Cross_ was a topsail schooner, and at
this moment the crowd of laborers away out at the fishing ground had
their attention drawn by the movement going on upon the rigging of the
foremast; men were swarming up, and a fellow was out on the yard–he
looked at that distance like a fly against the blue. He came down, as
did the others, and he had scarcely reached the deck when a white jet
of smoke shot like a plume from the bow of the _Southern Cross_, and
the noise of a gun came on the wind.

Something black and struggling, and just like a spider running up a
thread, went from the deck of the _Southern Cross_ to the yardarm,
touched it, and then sank some half dozen feet, and swung dangling
against the sky. It was the murderer.

Continue Reading

THE SCHOONER

They started for the fishing ground next morning immediately after
breakfast, and set to work at once. They had bad luck for the first
hour, and then, as if popped into their hands by the hand of luck, came
a beauty, a perfect white pearl, twice the size of a marrow-fat pea,
maybe even a little bigger, worth five thousand dollars if a penny–so
Schumer said.

They sat down to congratulate themselves and feel their luck. You
cannot feel your luck standing. Schumer lit a pipe and Floyd followed
his example. They put a bit of seaweed on a shell and the pearl on the
seaweed, and with it in front of them began to speculate and talk.
They felt now that time was theirs, and Schumer knew, though Floyd was
still to learn, that the flower of success blooms only on the youngest
shoots, that the joy of striking it rich lives only in perfection
during the first early days of the stroke, that the fever of life and
the enchantment of triumph both die down and fade, that the fully
grasped is nothing to the half grasped.

To be given a pearl lagoon by luck and to work it as a hog works a wood
for truffles would be to act like a hog.

The stuff was all there; this and the success of the first day’s work
was ample confirmation of the riches lying under that green water, and
Schumer expatiated on the matter.

“You wouldn’t believe it,” said he, “but the value of a single pearl
grows in proportion as you can match it with others exactly like it.
It takes eighty or a hundred pearls to make a woman’s necklace. Eighty
or a hundred pearls like that one would each be worth two or three
times what each pearl is worth alone. Even twenty pearls exactly alike
would be worth much more than if they were different, for they would
form the basis for a collection. You would never dream of the work
that goes on in the world matching these things. There are men at it
all the time in Paris and London and Amsterdam. A perfect necklace of
pearls once formed is always held together; it becomes an individual,
so to speak, and is known to the trade by a name. The women belonging
to the royal families of Europe hold a number of these collections, but
there are lots of private ones, and every great collection is known and
tabulated. So you see it won’t pay us to peddle our stuff out little by
little–we must hold all the pearls we get and match them.”

“Look here,” said Floyd, “one thing we have never settled–our shares
in this business. There’s Isbel, too; she has done her bit.”

Schumer laughed.

“What’s the use of money to a Kanaka?” said he. “We’ll give her
something, of course, but we need not take her seriously into our
calculations. Our shares–well, don’t you think it’s a bit early to
come to that? All this is a dream in the air at present; it may never
go farther.”

“Well, it’s this way,” said Floyd, “I always think it’s well to start
out knowing exactly where you are going to, and what you are to
get. When you sign on in a ship you know your pay, and you know the
latitudes you have got to work in, and you know the time you are to be
on the job. I think it would be better here and now to settle up this
business, and I think we ought to go half shares.”

“Half shares?” said Schumer meditatively.

“I have been figuring it out in my head,” said Floyd. “What have we
each contributed to the business? I have brought my work and a boat;
now, without a boat we’d have been done completely, because you can’t
reach here by the reef, and we couldn’t have discovered the beds
without a boat. Then there’s my work. You have brought your knowledge
of pearling, and, what is more, all that trade stuff and provisions
from the wreck, your energy and enterprise and your work. When I said
half shares I did not mean that all the trade and provisions of the
_Tonga_ should not be taken into consideration. I would suggest that
when we settle up I should pay you for all that out of my share. Then
there is the money of the _Tonga_ and the _Cormorant_. While I hold
that Coxon’s money belongs by right to his next of kin, I think what
I have suffered through his relative, Harrod, permits me to use that
money to further our speculation, paying it back with interest to the
next of kin when all is through. So I would be nearly equal to you in
ready cash, and the question resolves itself into my boat and work
against your work and knowledge of pearling.”

“I must point out to you,” said Schumer, “that I discovered the beds.”

“That is true, but without the boat where would you have been? If a
ship had come along and you had borrowed a boat to explore the lagoon,
the whole affair would have been given away. I am not arguing to make a
profit out of the business at your expense, only to give my full views
on the matter.”

Schumer sat silent for a minute, and Floyd again noticed that profile,
daring and predominant, hard and predatory. It was as though the spirit
of a hawk were gazing over the sea through the mask of a man.

“It seems to me,” said Schumer, “that the boat belonged to Coxon.”

“And the _Tonga_?” said Floyd.

Schumer shifted uneasily; then he laughed.

“Well, let it be so,” said he; “half shares, and you pay for the trade
and provisions; it’s early to talk of dividing what we have not got.
Still, as you wish it, I agree.”

He spoke without enthusiasm. Then he rose up. They had been sitting on
the weather side of the reef, with their backs to the lagoon and their
faces to the sea; the wind had almost died away, and now as they turned
they saw, away across the lagoon, a thin column of black smoke rising
from the camping place through the almost windless air.

“It’s the signal!” said Floyd.

“A ship!” cried Schumer.

He sheltered his eyes, and Floyd, doing the same, saw the figure of
Isbel moving about near the fire. She was putting fresh brushwood on
the flames, and even as they looked the smoke increased.

Schumer picked up the pearl that was still lying in the shell and put
it in his pocket. He glanced at the heaps of shell still untouched.
There was no time to cast all that back in the lagoon or hide the
evidence of their work; it was necessary to get back at once, and,
returning to the boat, which was beached on the sand, they shoved off,
Floyd taking the sculls.

When they reached the beach, Isbel was there, and helped to run the
boat up.

“A ship,” said she. “Schooner, I think, away over there.”

She pointed across the reef toward the outer sea.

The deck of the _Tonga_ had always given them a vantage point and a
lookout station; even without it now, just by standing on the reef
where the wreck had been they could see the sail, and Schumer, after a
brief glance, went off to the tent, which they had reëstablished by the
grove, and fetched a pair of glasses.

Through them she leaped into view, a topsail schooner, with all sail
set, making a long board for the island.

“She’s coming here, sure,” said Schumer; “a hundred and fifty or maybe
a hundred and eighty tons I reckon her to be; but it is deceitful at
this distance. Wonder what she is? Wonder what she’s doing down here?
She may have been blown out of her course by that storm; but she hasn’t
lost any sticks. Well, we’ll soon see.”

They watched the sail as she grew white as a pearl against the sky. The
sea had lost all trace of the late storm, and there remained only the
undying swell of the Pacific.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with her,” said Floyd, as he took a
spell with the glasses; “but she seems to be handled by lubbers. Either
they have not enough men to work the sails, or the officers are fools.”

Schumer took the glasses and watched her, but said nothing.

One of the coconut trees at the entrance end of the grove stood apart
from its fellows; it had been stripped of nuts and pretty well stripped
of leaves by the storm. At the suggestion of Schumer, Floyd, with a
flag tied round his neck like a huge muffler, and with a hammer and
some nails in his pocket, swarmed up the tree and nailed the flag to
the wood. The wind was strong enough to make it flutter, and with a
glass aboard the schooner it would be easily visible.

It evidently remained unseen, for no answer showed.

“She’s blind, as well as stupid,” said Floyd.

“There’s something wrong with her,” said Schumer, “and if she comes
blundering into the lagoon she may hit that reef we noticed the other
day on the left of the entrance. We had better get the boat out and
show her the way in when she gets a bit closer.”

The schooner was two miles from the reef when they began launching the
boat. They rowed out through the break in the reef, and then hoisted
the sail.

“She sees us now,” said Floyd.

A flag had been run up to the peak; it was the Stars and Stripes. Then
it was run down again, then again hoisted.

“Crew of lunatics,” said Schumer, as the American flag went down again
and was replaced by the Union Jack. “What are they at now?”

“They seem to be a mixed nationality,” said Floyd, “and rather
confused in their mind. Look, she’s heaving to!”

The wind shivered out the canvas and the topsails flattened.

She was, as Schumer had guessed, a schooner of some hundred and fifty
tons, and well found, to judge by her general appearance, her canvas,
and what they could judge of her sticks.

As they came alongside they saw that her decks were crowded with men,
all natives; not a white face showed, and as they boarded her a hubbub
rose such as Floyd had never heard before.

Forty Kanakas, mad with excitement and all trying to explain
themselves, some in broken English and some in native, produced more
impression than understanding.

Schumer took hold of affairs by seizing on a big man whom he judged
with unerring eye to be in some position of authority. Then he held up
his fist and yelled: “Silence!”

The row ceased in a second, and only Schumer’s voice was heard:

“You talk English?”

“Me talk allee right,” replied the big man. “Me savvee English me—-”

“Shut up and answer my questions! What schooner is this, and where
from?”

“She de _Sudden Cross_.”

“The _Southern Cross_; where from?”

“Sydney long time ‘go; lass po’t in de Sol’mons. Capen, off’cers, all
gone; fish p’ison.”

“Fish poisoning, was it? What was your captain’s name?”

“Capen Watters.”

“Walters, most like,” said Schumer. “Well, what are all these men–they
aren’t the crew?”

“Some de crew; some labor picked up down de Sol’mons, an’ islan’s away
dere.”

“And your cargo?”

“Copra, most.”

While Schumer was talking, Floyd was looking about him at the men on
deck. There were a dozen Solomon Islanders, some wearing nothing but G
strings, nearly all with shell rings through their nostrils, and some
with tobacco pipes stuck in their perforated ear lobes.

He thought he had never seen a harder lot of natives than these. The
others were milder looking.

Schumer, meanwhile, went on with his inquiries. The name of the big man
was Mountain Joe; he was bos’n. The schooner, since the loss of her
officers, had been in a hopeless state, as not a soul on board knew
anything of navigation. There had been four white men–the captain,
two mates, and a third man, evidently a trader or labor recruiter–and
the fish that had done the mischief had been canned salmon; evidently
ptomaine poisoning in its most virulent form had attacked the only
people who had partaken of it.

When Schumer had received all this intelligence, he ordered the boat to
be streamed astern on a line, and took command of the schooner.

Without with your leave or by your leave, he gave his orders no less to
Floyd than to Mountain Joe.

The Solomon Islanders and the other natives who had no part in the
working of the vessel fell apart from the crew, who sprang to the
braces at the order of their new skipper, the sails took the wind, and
the _Southern Cross_ began to forge ahead.

The wind was favorable for the lagoon opening, and as they neared it
Schumer ordered Floyd forward to con the ship while he himself took the
wheel.

As he steered, he gave his orders to Mountain Joe to get ready with the
anchor. The _Southern Cross_ responded to her helm as a sensitive horse
to the bit, and like a great white cloud she glided over the swell at
the reef opening, and like a great white swan she floated into the
lagoon.

Then the wind shook out the sails, and the rumble-tumble of the anchor
chain sounded over the water as she came to in five fathoms, and within
a pistol shot of the camping place.

Isbel was standing on the beach sheltering her eyes with her hand, and
some of the Kanaka crew, recognizing her as a native, waved and shouted
to her. She waved her hand in reply.

The schooner now swinging safely at her anchor, Schumer continued to
give orders till all of the remaining sail was stowed.

Then he turned to Floyd.

“Now, we have her safe and sound,” said he, “I propose we go down and
have a look at the manifest, and so forth.”

“You aren’t going to land any of these people yet?” asked Floyd,
following him down the companionway to the saloon.

“Not yet,” said Schumer; “and when I do land them it won’t be at our
camping ground. Hello, you nigger!” this to Mountain Joe, who had
followed them down; “what you doing here? Get on deck or I’ll boot you
up the ladder–cheek!”

Mountain Joe vanished.

“Look here,” said Floyd, as he shut the door of the saloon, “do you
believe that yarn of the fish poisoning?”

“I don’t,” said Schumer; “I believe the white men were done up. They
were a hard lot, most likely, and they met their match. There was
fighting on deck, for there was a bullet mark on the wheel, one of the
spokes was injured; not only that, I could tell from the manner of
those fellows that the big Kanaka was lying. Ah, what’s this?”

He went to one of the panels of the saloon by the door. It was split by
a bullet.

“Look at that!” said he.

“It’s clear enough,” replied Floyd, “there has been fighting down here,
too. Devils!”

“Oh, well,” said Schumer, “we haven’t heard their side of the story
yet. Come on, let us search and see what we can find.”

They entered the biggest cabin opening off the saloon. It was evidently
the captain’s. Here things were in order, the bunk undisturbed, and a
suit of pajamas neatly folded on the quilt.

“Bunk hasn’t even been lain on,” said Schumer, “and where would a sick
man lie but on his bunk or in it? These Kanakas are fools–soft heads;
they can’t put two and two together, or imagine other people doing it.
Now, let’s look for the ship’s papers.”

They hunted, but though they discovered the box which evidently had
contained the papers, sign of papers or money there was none. Neither
was there sign of the log.

“They have done away with them,” said Floyd.

“Looks so,” replied Schumer. “Unless the old man swallowed them before
he died. Ah, here’s a coat of his!”

A coat hanging from a peg by the bunk attracted his attention.

He examined the pockets, and discovered a number of letters, an
American dollar, a tobacco pouch, and a pipe. He returned the pipe and
the pouch, and placed the letters in his pocket.

“We’ll examine them later on,” said he; “they may give us some news.
Now let’s look at this chest and see what it holds.”

He raised the lid of a sea chest standing opposite the bunk, and began
to explore the contents. It contained mostly clothes, boots, some
island curios, and down in one corner another packet of letters, which
Schumer took possession of.

On the inside of the lid was nailed the portrait of a stout woman–the
unfortunate man’s wife, perhaps.

To Floyd there was something mournful in the sight of these few
possessions–all that was left on earth of a man living a few weeks
ago, or maybe a few days ago, and now vanished utterly; done to death,
most probably, by the savages on deck. But Schumer did not seem at all
disturbed by any reflections on the matter. With speed but no hurry he
went through the business, closed the lid, and rose up.

“Let’s get on deck,” said he; “we can overhaul the other cabins later
on. I have seen what I wanted to see, and there’s no use in leaving
those fellows on deck too long without attention. I’ll have another
talk with the big Kanaka, and then we’ll go ashore and have a council
of war.”

“Shall we let any of these chaps land?” asked Floyd.

“Not yet; and when we do we’ll land them at the reef by the fishing
ground. Looks like Providence, doesn’t it? We wanted labor, and it
seems we’ve got it.”

“They seem a tough crowd,” said Floyd, as he followed his companion up
the saloon stairs.

“They are,” said Schumer grimly; “but they’ll be softer when I have
done with them.”

On deck, the crew and the Solomon Islanders were scattered about,
mostly smoking. Some were seated on the deck; others, leaning over the
bulwark rails, were staring at the shore. There was no sign of disorder
or danger; the unfortunates were too glad to be in a place of safety,
after their experience of driving about the Pacific without a navigator.

The open sea is a terrific place to the Pacific islander when he does
not know in what part of it he is, and when he is left to his own
resources. Schumer’s prompt action in bringing them into the lagoon,
the way he handled the ship, and the manner in which he had given his
orders at once raised him to the position of the man in authority.

He ordered the boat, which was still streaming astern, with the rope
held taut by the outgoing tide, to be hauled alongside, then he told
Mountain Joe to get in, and, following him with Floyd, they pushed off
for the shore.

When they landed, Schumer called to Isbel, who came out of the bushes.
He told her to look after the big Kanaka and give him some refreshment,
and then, taking Floyd by the arm, he led him over to the windward
side of the reef, and at a point protected by trees from the lagoon
they sat down.

Said Schumer:

“When you are starting out on any business everything depends on
whether you have got a plan to go on _at the start_. A lot of darned
fools blunder along in the businesses they take up without even a plan.
If they have a plan, it’s one that turns up by accident.

“Now, here’s our position: Luck has sent us a schooner and a certain
quantity of labor. Good management and foresight has given us a lot of
trade, provisions, and arms; all that will be useless if we don’t act
at once on a plan.

“If we let those fellows land here, and if they discover the position
of the cache, it’s quite on the cards they might try to rush us. They
mustn’t touch the ground here; they must be segregated over there at
the fishing ground. We have a splendid strategical position, with a
section of the reef impassable, or next to impassable, for if they
tried to come along it they’d have to go so slow we could pick them off
with our Winchesters.

“But that’s all meeting trouble halfway. Our policy is to keep them
happy after putting the fear of God into them.

“I shall land them to-night over there, but first of all I am going to
show them exactly how things stand, and what they may expect if they
make trouble.

“Now come back, and we will have a talk with Mr. Mountain Joe.”

They came back to the tent, where the dusky bos’n was wiping his mouth
with the back of his hand.

Isbel, who had been giving him refreshments, was standing by. When she
saw Floyd and Schumer approaching, she went off toward the tent, and
the three men found themselves alone.

Out in the lagoon lay the schooner, the crowd on her deck leaning on
the bulwark rails, and evidently speculating on what might be going on
ashore.

Joe, who had been seated, rose up, and Schumer, taking his seat on the
sand beside Floyd, ordered the Kanaka to stand before him.

Schumer, taking a tobacco pouch from his pocket and a book of cigarette
papers, proceeded to roll a cigarette. As he ran the tip of his tongue
along the gummed edge of the paper he looked up at Joe.

“What made you tell that lie,” said he, “about the fish poisoning?”

Joe started as though some one had made an attempt to strike him.

“What fish p’isonin’, sah?”

“Now, don’t you try any games with me,” said Schumer, who had lighted
his cigarette. “I know all about the affair, and I am going to see
justice done. Your captain was killed, the mates were killed, and the
other white man was done away with and hove overboard. I take it he was
not a trader, but a labor recruiter. Don’t open your mouth to lie, or
I’ll put a bullet in it!”

He put his hand in his pocket and drew out a revolver, which he placed
on his thigh.

“You just hear me through, for I am going to tell you things. To begin
with, I doubt if you had any hand in the killing. I judge you by your
face. Had you any hand in it? You may speak.”

The man’s lips were dry; his tongue could scarcely form the words:

“No, sah, it was not me.”

“It was some of those Solomon Islanders?”

“Yes, sah.”

“Which was the one that did it? There’s always one that takes the lead.”

Joe was silent.

“Which was the one that did it?” asked Schumer again, without the least
change in his voice, but with his hand now on the butt of the revolver.

“De big one, sah, wid de woolly head an’ eyes so.”

He tried to squint.

“Ah, that chap! I noticed him, and I took his measure.”

Then, little by little, he drew out the whole story. It had been a bad
voyage for the _Southern Cross_. They had been recruiting down in the
Solomon Islands, and the recruiter, Markham by name, had been nearly
cut off.

He had adopted the usual methods, landing on the beach with a box
of trade goods and without any weapons, while a covering boat hung
offshore to protect him in case of attack.

The natives had seemed friendly, but all at once they had drawn off,
scattering toward the bush, from where next moment had come a flight of
their deadly spears, one of which had pierced Markham’s arm. With the
spear still in his arm, he had managed to get off, and under protection
of the fire from the covering boat had succeeded in reaching the
schooner. The spear had been cut out, or, rather, cut off at the barb
and drawn out, but the wound had bothered him a lot.

The thirty natives he had managed to secure before the business
suffered a good bit at his hand in return for it. The captain and the
mates had not been behindhand; some of the crew had run away, and
the schooner was shorthanded; that did not add to their good temper.
They tried to make the Solomon Islanders help in the working of the
vessel, but these gentry had not engaged themselves for ship work, but
plantation work, and they said so. The captain had booted some of them
and threatened to shoot others, and generally the schooner seemed to
have been a hard ship. There seemed the distinct evidence of a trail
of drink over the whole business, and the upshot was death for the
afterguard.

Death dealt with belaying pins and an ax wielded by the woolly-headed
individual with the squint.

Two natives had been shot dead on the spot, one had been wounded,
and had died of his wounds. Then the decks had been swabbed, and the
precious crew, without a navigating officer or the faintest notion of
their exact position, had made sail, or, rather, made a fair wind that
was blowing, trusting to chance to take them somewhere.

They had touched the skirt of the big storm, but they managed to
weather it, and, seeing the island in sight, had made for it.

“Well,” said Schumer, “I believe you have been telling me the truth. I
am here to do justice, and justice shall be done.”

He rose up, and drawing Floyd aside, walked a few paces with him along
the beach.

“That fellow with the squint was evidently the leader in this
business,” said he. “I am not thinking so much of the trouble on
board the schooner, for it’s pretty evident that the old man and the
mates and the recruiter deserved their gruel. What I am thinking of is
the time before us. I am going to make these chaps work the fishery,
and I don’t want a potential murder leader among them. That wouldn’t
do at all. Besides, they must be shown at once their position in the
scheme of things, and that position is laborers working for decent pay,
but under a strong hand. Besides, all these fellows have murder on
their conscience–or the thing, whatever it is, that serves for their
conscience. That will always make them nervous and distrustful of white
men. I can’t clear their consciences, but I can clear their minds of
the fear of consequences, and I am going to do it now.

“You have your revolver in your pocket; get your rifle, also, and come
with me. We may have to fight; there’s no knowing.”

“I shouldn’t mind if we have,” said Floyd; “rotten murderers!”

“Oh, they are all right! They are only savages, doing according to
their lights. They only require firmness to do according to the lights
of civilization.”

He went to the tent with Floyd, and they got their rifles and some
extra ammunition. Then, with the help of Joe, they pushed the boat off.

The fellows on board watched the coming of the boat, evidently
suspecting nothing, though they must have seen the rifles.

Schumer was the first to come on board, followed by Floyd.

They walked aft, and Joe, when he had finished securing the boat,
followed them.

Schumer sent him below for two deck chairs which he had seen in the
saloon; they were placed close to the wheel, and the white men, taking
their seats, and with the rifles across their knees, Schumer threw his
old panama hat on the deck about fifteen paces away from where he was
sitting, and ordered all hands aft for a palaver.

No man was to take a step beyond the hat.

They came up, some of them still smoking, some chewing, and all
evidently wondering what was up, and what the bearded white man with
the fixed, determined face had to say to them.

Though he could speak in the dialect of the Solomons, he made Joe his
interpreter.

He asked the labor hands first what wages the recruiter had promised
them for plantation work.

They were very explicit on this point. They were each to receive in
trade goods, tobacco, knives, and so forth what would be the equivalent
of about seven pounds a year. They were, of course, to be fed and
looked after.

Schumer, taking a pencil and a piece of paper from his pocket, made
calculations. Then he addressed them through Joe. He said that he and
Floyd were owners of this island, which was a very pleasant place, as
they could see for themselves, with plenty of food, both grown here and
brought to them regularly by a ship, which they also owned.

To allow this to sink into their intelligence, he proceeded to roll a
cigarette; when he had lit it, he went on.

He would offer them work here, and a happy life, and a return home
at the end of a year, if they desired to return. The work was very
easy, and play, compared to plantation work; it was simply diving for
shellfish. They could all dive?

A flashing of white teeth answered this question in the affirmative.

He would pay them exactly the same wages as that offered for plantation
work; each man would have to collect so much shell–the amount would be
fixed later–and for all shell collected over and above the stipulated
amount, a bonus would be paid in tobacco or whatever they liked.

The bonus business had to be explained to them, and the idea took hold
upon their imaginations at once.

They agreed to everything. The island pleased them; there was evidence
of what Schumer had stated all round–plenty of trees, fruit, and in
the lagoon fish. It seemed to them that they had dropped on their
feet at last. They broke up into little groups and chattered over the
business while Schumer sat watching them with a brooding eye.

Any other man, one might fancy, would have been more than satisfied by
the success which had apparently met his offer. In reality, he had only
begun what he had set out to do.

When they had talked together long enough, he gave orders to Joe, and
they were lined up again. Asked if they agreed to the terms offered to
them, they replied, “Yes.”

Then Schumer, throwing the end of his cigarette away, crossing his
knees, and nursing the rifle lying across his lap, began speaking to
them in their own dialect without the aid of Joe.

He talked to the Solomon Islanders, but the others quite understood his
words.

He pointed out that from what he had seen below stairs, he knew for a
fact that the captain of the _Southern Cross_ and the other white men
had not died from fish poisoning, but from blows. He told them that
an English man-of-war was cruising in the neighborhood of the island,
and that if she caught them they would undoubtedly be hanged to a man;
he gave them a pantomime with his hand at his throat to help their
imaginations, and, seeing the effect produced, at once started on a new
line.

They had nothing to fear if they trusted in him and in the white man
beside him, but justice must be done. It was impossible for white men
to allow other white men to be murdered or killed without bringing the
murderers to book.

He did not believe that they were all implicated, but he did believe
that there was one among their number who had led them to this act.

Dead silence among the audience, whose faces laughing a moment ago,
were now a picture representing all the emotions that range between
furtiveness and fright.

No one spoke.

“Very well,” said Schumer, still speaking in the native, “if you will
not speak it will be the worse for you. I am not your enemy. I am your
friend, and am able to protect you all from the consequences of what
has been done; but I will not do so unless I can punish the man who was
chief in this business. You will not show him to me; well, then, I will
find him for myself, for I have been born with the means of knowing
men, and I can see their thoughts, just as you can see the fish that
swim in the lagoon.”

He rose from his seat and walked toward where they were standing. The
line bent back for a moment, as though they were going to break away
and run, then they stood their ground; every eye was fixed on him as he
went from one to the other, lifting this one’s chin with his finger,
resting his hand on that one’s head.

Floyd, still seated, had his rifle ready in case of accidents, but it
was not needed. The diplomacy of Schumer had made the crowd afraid, not
of him, but of the consequences of their act, and to cap that, they
were held by the fascination of this business and the curiosity to see
what was about to happen.

When Schumer reached the squint-eyed individual he placed his hand on
his head. Then he snatched it away, as though something had stung him,
and looked at the palm.

“You are the man,” said he. “Look!”

He held up his palm for a second; there was nothing in it, but every
man in that crowd saw something, according to his imagination.

Continue Reading

A WEEK’S WORK

Next day, though the sea still held, the wind had fallen completely,
and the lagoon, protected by the reef, was calm, though heaving
slightly to the impetus from without.

All the water close to the reef opening was wreck strewn, a section of
deck floated like a raft, and they had to exercise care in navigating
the boat.

“If we had hands enough,” said Schumer, “all that stuff might come
in useful to build a house with, or some sort of shanty that would
give more protection than the tent. We’ll want something in the rainy
season. But there is no use in bothering, we haven’t the hands.”

When they arrived at the fishing ground they landed and found the heap
of shells they had left scattered and almost vanished.

“That will teach us in future,” said Schumer. “We must find some means
of protecting the stuff in case of storms; those old rain pools would
do if we could only drain them, but we can’t without labor. It’s always
want of labor that has stopped us. Well, we’ll get it some day.”

Though no real business could be done on the fishery till more help
was obtainable, the temptation to work was irresistible.

Those first pearls were always in their minds. It was humanly
impossible to rest content with that sample, and refrain from the
attempt to get more, even in face of the exhausting labor of diving and
dredging.

But they worked less ambitiously now, and so carefully that the day’s
take of shell did not amount to half the take on the first day. As a
result they were fresh when they knocked off, instead of being worn out.

They left the oysters to rot, and so it went on day by day, till
at the end of the week they knocked off the diving one evening
and contemplated their handiwork. Each day’s take had been placed
separately, and the first day’s was now “ripe,” to use Schumer’s
expression.

“We’ll start on it to-morrow,” said he, “and go through it slowly so
that there may be no chance of anything escaping; the dredge wants
mending, too–we’d better do that to-night after supper. Isbel can make
another pocket for it. I wish we had diving dresses and an air pump,
and when we get the business properly fixed we may be able to obtain
them; but there’s no use in thinking of that now.”

They got into the boat, and Floyd sculled her back, Schumer sitting
in the stern and conning them clear of the floating wreckage near the
camping place. It grieved Schumer’s heart to see all that stuff waste
and ungetable. He was one of the men who can make use of anything
almost to further or maintain his set purpose.

Continue Reading

THE LAST OF THE WRECK

That night, as they sat by the camp fire they noticed a great confusion
among the gulls.

They seemed quarreling all along the western side of the reef. The
voice of the gulls was one of the familiar sounds of the island, but
not after dark. To-night they were clamorous.

They broke out again before dawn, and Floyd, listening, noticed a new
note in their voices. They seemed not quarreling one with another, but
against some common enemy. Then the sound died away little by little,
and when he came out of the tent there was not a gull to be seen near
the reef opening, where as a rule they congregated in numbers.

The sunrise was clouded, and the sun did not strike the sea till half
an hour later than his ordinary time. The wind that had been blowing so
strongly yesterday had died away, yet the boom of the surf on the reef
was louder than on the day before.

Floyd crossed the reef close to the wreck and looked seaward.

A glacial calm held the sea, a calm underrun by a tremendous swell. A
long, tremendous swell, an infinite heaving of the very depths of the
ocean finding expression here in acre-wide undulations, solemn, slow
to the eye, rhythmical and sonorous.

The beating of the breakers seemed ruled by a metronome.

There was no little wave and big wave, no hesitation of the sea. The
breakers were equidistant and equal in volume, and their pace was set
to the same funeral march.

Schumer came out of the tent, and, catching sight of Floyd, walked
toward him.

“There must be a lot of damp or electricity or something in the air,”
said he. “I feel like a rag.”

“Look at the sea,” said Floyd; “there has been a big storm somewhere,
if I am not greatly mistaken.”

Schumer stood looking at the sea.

The sun seemed bright as ever, yet the water did not respond to his
light; it had at once a surface brilliancy and a dullness in its
depths. Toward the shore it was bottle green, and even the blue far out
had a trace of tourmaline.

Schumer said nothing, and turned away to the camping place, where Isbel
was making the fire.

“Shall we go on with the diving to-day?” asked Floyd, as they
breakfasted.

“I don’t feel like work,” said Schumer; “besides, I doubt if it would
be any use. There’s a huge, big storm coming, if I am not mistaken.
I feel it in my skin, and I feel it in my nerves. I suppose it’s the
electricity in the air, but I believe I’d spark if you touched me with
a bit of metal. Listen! There go the gulls again.”

Away on the reef beyond the fishing ground, so far away that their
voices came indistinctly on the windless air, the gulls were crying
again, and, standing up, Floyd could see them in wild flight about the
reef like scraps of blown white paper.

Then they rose higher, continued their argument, and began to recede.

“They are off,” said Floyd; “going out seaward, the whole lot of them.
By Jove, that looks like business!”

“They know what’s coming,” said Schumer, “and they are clearing out of
the track. Wonder what tells them. Instinct, I suppose.”

He set off to examine the cache, taking Floyd with him. He had covered
the perishable stuff with sailcloth, and he now set to make the
lashings more secure. They worked an hour, and when they came out again
the sun had lost his brilliancy–a vague mist hid the horizon on every
side.

In the northwest this thickness seemed more dense, and the sea, still
glassing in and breaking in rhythmical thunder on the reef, had turned
to the color of lead.

But for the noise of the surf the silence was now absolute and complete.

It held so till noon, when a wind began to stir the palm tops; a wind
that seemed to come from nowhere, rocking them and tossing them hither
and thither, making cat’s-paws on the lagoon, and flicking at the tent
canvas like a worrying hand.

Schumer took down the tent.

He had already placed the valuables in a place of safety. He had dug
out a hole beneath one of the trees and buried the cash box containing
the money and pearls.

“You never know,” he said, “if it’s a cyclone that’s coming. Nothing is
safe above ground. A cyclone would lift an anvil; anyhow, this will be
safe enough.”

An hour after noon the great storm showed itself.

Away above the northwestern horizon a black line appeared, hard and
distinct as the outline of a country.

It did not seem to advance–it rose. Till now it assumed the appearance
of a wall. As it rose, it lightened to a dark copper color, and as it
rose it lengthened, so that now it occupied the whole horizon from east
to west.

The rapidity of this development was appalling, and the sun, as if
shrinking before the coming attack, paled still more, dimmed as by a
partial eclipse.

Now the wind came steady and strong, whipping the lagoon and bending
the foliage, and then all at once dying away again into absolute
stillness.

It was in this great pause that they heard a sound never to be
forgotten; less a sound than a vibration–deep and almost musical, like
the vibration of a great glass rubbed by a wet finger.

Isbel, who had remained on the reef near the wreck while the two men
had gone for a moment toward the lagoon edge, called out suddenly, and
they turned and came toward her.

Even as they turned, the first blast of the wind struck them, and,
battling against it, they reached where the girl was crouching,
pointing to the sea.

The sea beyond the limit of a mile or so was flat as a board, beaten to
a dead level by the coming wind and white as frosted silver.

They did not wait to see more; turning, crouching, running as swiftly
as possible, and nearly lifted from their feet, they made for the
shelter of the grove. They heard the coconuts torn from the palms
striking the sand, and Floyd had a momentary vision of nuts hitting the
lagoon like round shot fired by artillery, and then the whole solid
world seemed to smash like a ball of glass, as the blaze of lightning
and the concussion of the first peal of thunder shook the island as a
drum skin is shaken by the stroke of the stick.

Floyd felt Isbel nestling close to him like a frightened animal, and
he put his arm round her to protect her. He heard Schumer calling out
something, but what he could not tell. The wind had now followed on the
thunder in its fullest force, and it yelled.

No earthly sound could be compared to that ceaseless, mad, devilish
yell that seemed the expression of all the ferocity of all the
ferocious things that had ever inhabited the earth.

It was enmity made vocal. The enmity of the infinite and eternal.

And there was no rain. For a moment Floyd thought that there was no
rain; then, lying on his stomach and crawling a bit forward, he saw the
rain. It was not falling, it was driving across the lagoon in a great
sheet upheld by the wind, and the lightning when it struck again showed
through a roof of water.

Then, the first rush of the wind slackening, the rain, upheld no
longer, came down with a roar.

“It’s not a cyclone,” Schumer shouted to Floyd; “it’s just a storm–the
grandfather of all storms!”

His voice was cut off by the voice of the sea, that had now added
itself to the wind and the thunder.

The sea, no longer beaten flat, had risen in its might, and was raiding
the reef. The sound was like the roar of a railway train in a tunnel.
Something of the vibration reached them through the ground they were
lying on.

They were wet through, but safe. The grove had weathered many a storm;
the position of the trees and their relationship to the reef rendered
this spot an impregnable stronghold.

Away on the opposite side of the lagoon breadfruit trees were being
broken down, but here not a tree went, though the palms were bending
like tandem whips and the leaves being torn from the artus.

As time passed, the sea began to rise more and more, while the face of
the wind lost its first edge.

Toward evening the waves were making a clean breach of the reef by
the wreck, and when dark set in, though the wind had lessened still
more, the sea had risen in an inverse proportion, and they guessed the
reason. The tide was flooding.

Then came new sounds. The wreck was going. The bones of the _Tonga_
were being crunched by the wolves of the sea. They heard the noise of
the tearing of timber from timber, the roll and rumble of balks awash
on the coral, and then, worn out and huddled together under a piece of
canvas which they dragged from the cache covering, they fell asleep,
sure that the worst of the business was over.

When they awoke, the sun was shining, but the wind was still blowing
half a gale. The fury of the storm had been in its first impact, but
the fury of the sea was now even greater than during the night.

The waves were mountainous, and the reef where the wreck had lain was
unapproachable, but the sun made up for everything.

They crawled out and sat on the sand, drying themselves in the
sunshine, stiff and chill from the damp, and feeling like people
recovering from an illness.

“That storm has been traveling a great distance,” said Schumer, “and
we got only the butt end of it That’s what made it blow out so soon.
A storm is like a man–it has only a certain length of life, and the
farther it travels the more it loses in size. It doesn’t seem to lose
in force, only in _size_.

“This big sea shows that a big track of the Pacific has been stirred
up. This sea will travel right down to the Horn, and it will last for
days here. Look at the lagoon!”

The lagoon was strewn with wreckage, spars and planking and ribs
floated near the shore, moving as if gently stirred by some giant’s
finger in the wind-whipped water; the reef, as far as they could see,
was washed free of any trace of the wreck that had lain there the day
before.

“It’s a good business we salved the stuff out of her,” said Floyd.
“Your business, too, that was, for if I had been left to myself I
wouldn’t have troubled.”

“I’ll go and look at the stuff presently,” said Schumer. “I believe it
won’t have been hurt by the rain–at least, the perishable stuff–I was
too careful about the packing; and the drainage is all right–people
rarely think of that. It doesn’t do stuff any harm to be rained on if
it is properly covered; what does matter is soaking. Yes, it’s just as
well we moved in time. Now let us get to work.”

A fire was impossible, as there was not a dry stick to be found
anywhere, so they breakfasted on canned meat and biscuit, and then set
to work to examine the cache.

There was two feet of water in the cache, all the rest had run off to
the lagoon by the drainage afforded at the two ends. Schumer had packed
the perishable goods on top–they were quite unharmed. Having satisfied
themselves on this point, they returned to the beach and the sea.

The wind had fallen still more, but the sea was still furious.

“It will be less over there on the reef by the fishing ground,” said
Schumer, “and we can begin again with the diving work to-morrow!”

Continue Reading

THE BLACK PEARL

The next morning they started for the oyster ground. There had been
strong winds blowing for the last week and big seas tumbling along the
reef, the spray finding the oysters that they had put out on the coral,
otherwise they might not only have rotted, but dried up. As it was,
they were just in the prime of their horribleness.

“Good heavens!” said Floyd, as they set to work. “This is worse than
salving cargo–a jolly sight worse even than diving.”

“You’ll get used to it,” said Schumer, “and if it’s any comfort to you
to know it’s worse for me than you, for I have an olfactory sense more
acute than ordinary. Get more to windward of your work. You ought to
know that as a sailor.”

“Upon my word!” said Floyd, “these things must have half stunned me;
they are enough to make one forget one’s instincts, even. Go ahead, I
won’t complain.”

He got to windward, and the stiff breeze helped matters considerably.
Schumer had brought a piece of sailcloth, also a canvas bucket, which
they filled as required from a reef pool near by.

Every shell was searched and washed over the canvas, Schumer, with the
eye and hand of an expert, doing the manipulation while Floyd poured
the water in trickles as required.

Dozen by dozen the shells were explored, drained of their mushy
contents, and flung away. Not a pearl showed.

Floyd forgot everything in the excitement of the moment. He had no
longer a sense of smell, and then, as the heap of shells steadily grew
without sign or symptom of what they were in search of, his spirits
fell.

“Pour away,” said Schumer; “this is only the beginning of the business;
there’s no knowing what is to come. Ah, here’s something!”

He stood up, poured some water into the palm of his hand, examined what
was in his palm, and then held out his dripping hand to Floyd.

In the palm lay a small black stone about the size of a pea.

“What is it?” asked Floyd.

Schumer laughed.

“Only a black pearl, worth maybe a hundred dollars. But it’s fortune,
all the same. We have struck it! A hundred dollars for half an hour’s
work for two men. It’s good!”

He sat down on the coral, while Floyd, now deeply excited, took his
seat beside him. The gulls cried and wheeled overhead, and the sun
burned on the blue sea and the foam of the reef, and the wind blew the
spray in their faces as they sat handing their treasure from one to the
other, examining it and gloating over it.

Washed and dried now, its luster appeared. It was a perfect black
pearl, not large, but of splendid quality, globular and slightly
flattened on one side.

“It’s worth more even than I thought at first,” said Schumer. “It’s a
beauty. Well, we mustn’t chuckle too soon; it may be the only pearl in
the lagoon, though I don’t think so. And the shell is of fine quality;
all the indications are good.”

“I thought all pearls were white,” said Floyd. “Of course, I know
nothing about them, and the only ones I have seen were in shop windows.”

“And most likely false, at that,” said Schumer. “No. Pearls are not all
white. I don’t know what makes the color in them, but there it is. Some
are black like this, and a few are pink, and I’ve seen some gray–they
aren’t much good. Pink are the rarest, then come black, then white.
Well, I’ll put this fellow in my match box, and now let’s get to work
again.”

He put the pearl in the match box and the box in the pocket of his
coat, which he had taken off. Then, having placed a lump of coral on
the coat to prevent any chance of the wind blowing it about, they
returned to work.

They worked right through the whole take of shell, and the sun was
setting when they had finished. The result was triumphant.

Twelve pearls was the harvest, including the black. Four of these were
quite inconsiderable, but of good quality; four more, though larger,
were not of good shape or quality, but there were three white beauties.
The largest, Schumer estimated at a thousand dollars and over, the next
largest at less than a thousand, and the third at five hundred.

There were also some seed pearls, tiny things like nits’ eggs.

“If the whole lagoon pays up like that,” said Floyd, “we’ll be rich ten
times over.”

Schumer shook his head.

“We can’t tell. Nothing is more uncertain than pearling. We are sure
to find blank streaks, and it’s possible we may have just struck the
richest corner. In a lagoon like this a lot depends on the different
temperatures, the depth, and the rush of the currents. But we’ve done
well, and a lot better than I expected.”

They set off back across the lagoon to their camping place, and the
day’s take was placed in the box with the ship’s money.

Schumer had suggested to Floyd that the money of the _Cormorant_ should
be placed with that of the _Tonga_ in the same box, and Floyd had
agreed, seeing the wisdom of centralizing their treasure so that in
eventualities it might be more easily protected.

Together with the pearls the hoard made now a very respectable show,
though Floyd had pointed out that the _Cormorant_ money, being Coxon’s,
must not be counted in their mutual assets. Schumer had agreed, though
evidently with reservations. The money of the _Tonga_ was a different
matter; he seemed to look on it as his own. Never once did he refer
to it in other terms, nor had he told Floyd the name of the _Tonga’s_
skipper.

Floyd did not press the point–it was a matter entirely to do with
Schumer.

Continue Reading

RISK OF WAR

“You can’t get pearls from oysters till the oysters are rotten,” said
Schumer next morning, as they sat after breakfast consulting on the
day’s work. “Of course, you could take every individual fresh oyster
and hunt under its beard; but you know how an oyster sticks to its
shell even after it is opened, and you can fancy the work it would
be. Once they are decayed they are mushy, and the work is easy though
it’s not pleasant. But it’s surprising how quick you get used to it.
We worked pretty hard yesterday, and I propose to take it easy this
morning, and then a bit later on I want to have a regular overhaul of
the saloon and trade room of the old _Tonga_. We have cleared the way
pretty well, but I’ve been so busy catching stores in the bush that
I’ve never had time for an overhaul. You see there was only Isbel and
me to do the job. I expect the oysters we laid out yesterday will be
fit to work on to-morrow.”

“You’ve done this pearl business before,” said Floyd.

Schumer laughed.

“I have helped in pearling, if that’s what you mean, but I have never
had any luck. I once had my hand on a fortune in pearls, but it did not
come off.

“There was a French island in these seas, no matter where–it wasn’t
a thousand miles from the Marquesas. It was a double lagoon island,
shaped like an hourglass; no use to look at, not enough trees to give
any amount of copra. It had done a little business in sandalwood in
the old days, but that was all gone. But the place wasn’t deserted.
There was an old Frenchman in charge; he had rented it under the French
government, and he lived there with his two sons, and seemed happy
enough, though doing next to no trade.

“I was in the outer lagoon twice as supercargo of a trading schooner;
once we put in for water, and the second time we called on the chance
of picking up a little copra. Lefarge was the old man’s name, and he
was a great fisherman; said he lived there mostly for the fishing and
to have an easy life.

“Yet somehow he struck me as a man who would not be content to spend
his time fishing and sitting in the sun, and his two boys struck me the
same.

“When I wanted to explore the island and get round by the reef to the
main lagoon he said that was forbidden, the natives held it taboo to
white men, and so on.

“Then I began to suspect, and the only one thing I could suspect was
shell, and maybe pearls.

“The more I thought of it the more sure I was; but, of course, I could
do nothing; the place was his, and whatever it held, and we were
peaceful traders, not pirates. So, when we had loaded with all the
copra he could give us, out we put, wishing him good health and good
luck in his fishing.

“Two days from the island we met a mail brigantine, and she signaled
us that war had been declared between France and Germany, and our
captain–Max Schuster was his name–began to swear, for we were bound
for the Marquesas, which are French, and we’d have to alter our course
and lose consignments and trade, and he sat down on a mooring bit, and
cursed war and the French till I took him by the arm and led him down
the saloon and explained what was in my mind.

“I told him of my suspicions about the island, and he pricked up his
ears. Then, when I had been talking to him about ten minutes and
explaining and arguing, he suddenly took fire.

“It’s surprising how a dull man will refuse to be convinced–_won’t_
see, till all at once, when he does see, he’ll rush at what you show
him harder than the best.

“Schuster, when he saw fully the advantage of his position, little
risk, and everything to gain, rushed up on deck. In less than five
minutes the schooner was showing her tail to the Marquesas and making a
long board for the island.

“Our crew were mostly Swedes, Kanakas, and an Irishman, and when they
heard the news that Schuster had to tell them they were his to a man.
The French were not much in favor just then; they had Noumea tacked
on to their name, and the ordinary sailor loves a bit of a fight or
any break in the monotony of sea life. We had plenty of trade rifles,
Albinis–not the best sort of rifle, but good enough for us–and plenty
of ammunition.

“We lifted the island at dawn on the second day, and were anchored in
the lagoon a few hours later.

“Old Lefarge was on the beach tinkering a canoe. He didn’t seem
surprised to see us come in with the German flag flying at the peak,
nor did his sons, who came out of the frame house set back among the
bushes. They thought we had sickness or something on board, for they
made no offer to put out to us. We lowered a boat on the port side,
which was the side away from the beach, and got our men in and the
rifles, and then rowed ashore.

“When they saw us landing they took fright, but our men covered them
with their rifles, and Schuster and I came up to the old man and his
sons and told them that war was declared, and that they were prisoners.

“They could do nothing, and they just gave in. We had them taken on
board the schooner, and then we went to the frame house, and there,
sure enough, in a big safe, were the pearls. We had searched the
prisoners and taken their keys from them. The key of the safe was among
them, and we opened it easily. There were twenty thousand pounds’ worth
of pearls, so we judged.

“Schuster was a man who always held tight by the law. I pointed out to
him that since we were at war with France all French property belonged
to us by rights, and that the best thing we could do was to land the
prisoners and take the pearls. We did not want prisoners. I pointed
out to him, also, that we were acting in the nature of privateers, but
without a letter of marque, and that consequently our prize would go to
the government, and we would get nothing.

“I pointed out that since this was French property it would be much
better just to take it and be thankful, and say nothing. He said that
would be piracy.”

“So it would,” said Floyd.

“Well, maybe it would; but what is war if not piracy legalized? You
have a letter of marque and you are a privateer, you have none and you
are a pirate.”

“But even privateering has ceased,” objected Floyd.

“Well,” said Schumer, “if it has it ought to be renewed in war time;
it breeds fine men, as you English ought to know, and it’s every
bit as legitimate as fighting behind naval guns. However, Schuster
thought different about our case. He said he would take the whole lot,
prisoners and pearls, to the nearest German island, and claim a share
of the proceeds, and be within the law.

“So off we set, and it took us nearly three weeks to reach the island
we were in search of, between head winds and calms. When we got there
it was getting on for night, so we held off and on till morning, and
when the pilot came aboard we gave him news of the war, and several
canoes that had put out shot back to land with it; so that when we
entered the harbor the place was decked with flags, and we were cheered
right from the harbor mouth to the quay.”

Schumer paused for a light, and went on:

“We landed our prisoners and the pearls, and the governor had laid a
big spread for us, baked pig and lager beer, and so on, and Schuster
was in the middle of a speech when the sound of a gun brought us all
out on the beach, and there, entering the harbor, was the German
cruiser of the station.

“The captain landed and asked us what we were doing with the flags, and
when we explained he told us that there was no war, only a lying rumor.
He had the latest European news from San Francisco, and he gave it to
us.

“It was worth going through the whole of that business to see
Schuster’s face. He said nothing, and the governor said nothing, and
it was fortunate they held their tongues, for the cruiser only waited
four hours to water and put off again.

“When she had gone the governor bundled old Lefarge and his sons on
board our schooner and the pearls, and he gave us orders to take them
back to their island and dump them there, and he sent an armed guard
to see that it was done. He judged, and judged rightly, that Lefarge
would make no trouble afterward, simply because he would not want to
advertise the existence of his island. He made them a present of a few
cases of California champagne and some cigars, and old Lefarge was so
glad to be out of the business and get back his pearls that he insisted
on opening the champagne, and Schuster brought out some trade gin, and
they all got drunk.

“There was a big moon that night, and they enjoyed themselves, Lefarge
singing ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,’ and the governor the
‘Marseillaise.’

“Then they started fighting, and then they got sick.

“Men are strange things, once they let themselves go, and they are all
pretty much alike when they are drunk.”

“You took them back to their island?” said Floyd.

“Yes, and then we had to return and bring back the armed guard.
Schuster lost nearly two months over the business, to say nothing of
the provisions and loss of trade. He said he wanted to sink the mail
brigantine that had given us the lie; but you can’t sink a ship by
wanting to. Well, let’s get to work.”

They rose up and crossed the coral to the wreck. She was lying at a
slant that made it just possible to walk her decks without holding on
to anything; her copper was already dull green, and the barnacles,
long dead, showed up like bosses on the copper green like it, as
though the verdigris had invaded them. The sun had boiled out the pitch
of the planking, and the decks were warping, the planks bursting up
from the dowels.

The great “dunch” she had received from the coral in beaching
had shaken everything loose; the bowsprit had sprung up from the
knightheads; all forward of the great breach in her side the planking
was loosened from the ribs, and only wanted another storm to break away
and give the sea a clean sweep of the interior of the hull.

But leaving aside the ravages of the sea, the work of ruin was going
steadily on under the influence of weather and sun. A ship out of water
is dead, and death means corruption. On the reefs and beaches of the
ocean you will see wrecks, carcasses of ships, skeletons with the blue
sky showing through their ribs. They have been eaten by the weather
more than by the sea.

They reached the deck of the _Tonga_, and made their way down the
companionway to the main cabin.

There was plenty of light through the broken sides of the vessel, and
the sunshine from the outside world showed up the interior and was
reflected by the varnished pine paneling and by a strip of mirror still
absolutely intact. The table in the center was still standing, and
above it the swinging lamp all askew, an empty bird cage lay in one
corner, and all sorts of raffle littered the floor.

The captain and chief mate’s cabin lay aft, and Schumer, opening the
doors and fixing them so, began a thorough overhaul of the contents.
He had already salved the ship’s money and papers, the nautical
instruments, charts, and books; what remained was mostly private
property, and there was not very much of it. Some clothes, underwear,
and boots and shoes made up the pile, together with native curios,
cheap novels, some writing materials, and two revolvers with ammunition.

“It’ll all come in handy some time or another,” said Schumer, “and I
propose that we stuff the lot back into the old man’s cabin; they’ll be
as safe there as anywhere, unless another big storm comes and makes a
clean sweep of everything. Now let’s have another go at the cargo.”

They had no need to enter the hold by the main hatch. The damaged side
gave them ample means of entry. The confusion was appalling.

Schumer had already salved a quantity of canned stuff. Unable to move
the boxes and crates, he had broken them open with an ax and removed
the contents piecemeal; but, having only Isbel to help, and no very
urgent incentive to the work, he had done comparatively little. Now,
with the prospect of remaining on the island and the necessity of
feeding possible labor when the time came for working the lagoon, it
was a different matter.

Floyd, however, did not see it in the same light as Schumer, and when,
after an hour’s work carrying stuff across the coral, they knocked off
for a rest, he put his ideas before the other.

“Look here,” said he, “it’s all very well breaking our backs over this
business, but we haven’t got the labor to feed yet; we’ll have to go
to Sydney or ‘Frisco to get the money raised, and it may be six months
after we are taken from here before we can get back, maybe longer.
Then the chap that finances this business will do the provisioning of
the expedition. I don’t see the point in harvesting this stuff under
the trees, especially as it’s safe enough in the wreck.”

“Now, see here,” said Schumer, “if you are not prepared for everything
in this world you never get anywhere. You say the stuff is safe enough
on the wreck; I say it isn’t. First, there’s the heat of the sun, which
doesn’t improve it. Secondly, there’s the chance of a hurricane making
a clean sweep of everything. The tail end of a big storm landed her
where she is; the front end of another may finish her. You say that it
may take us six months or more before we can start on our business–who
knows? Who knows that a likely ship may not call here with some man in
charge of her who would join us in the venture? I would sooner have
a decent shipowner in it than some American or Australian financier.
You never know what may occur, and here is a lot of stuff that may
save the situation when the time comes. No, we have got to get it
safe, and get it safe we will, not only provisions, but as much of the
trade as we can manage. It’s all money, and you can do nothing without
money, either in these seas or in Europe. So we’ll just stick to this
business, and we’ll cover the cached lots over with sailcloth–we
have lots of that. We had better stick to it for a week right on and
get it over. I’ve been thinking about it ever since this morning, and
something tells me that we’d be fools to bother about the lagoon, which
is safe as a bank, while the stuff that will help to raid that bank is
in danger.”

“Suppose there are no pearls in those oysters of any account?”

“There’s always the shell,” replied Schumer, “and there are sure to be
pearls. You are of the disbelieving sort.”

“Not a bit–only–well, perhaps you are right. I’m not going to shirk
any work that may be useful–and when do you propose to examine those
oysters we fetched up yesterday?”

“I’ll leave them a week,” said Schumer; “the longer they are left the
more rotten they’ll be, and the easier to work. Besides, if we found
no pearls, it would take the heart out of us, and, more than that,
the hope of finding pearls when we do go will put the heart into us.
Nothing is better to make one work than a pleasant prospect not quite
assured in front of one. It’s the gambling instinct–a big instinct.”

Floyd laughed. There was something about the man Schumer that held
him more and more and compelled belief and the admiration that all
men have for strength and foresight. Schumer did a lot of thinking as
well as working. He had said nothing up to this moment of abandoning
the oyster business for a week and putting all their energies into
the salving of provisions and trade–he had been thinking out the
whole plan in silence. He disliked the labor of the salvage business
as much as Floyd, but he imposed it on himself as means to a distant
end, and Floyd, though he did not see the end in the same light as his
companion, was not the man to hold back when another was working.

“I am with you,” said he. “It will give us exercise, anyhow, and it’s
better than diving. Come on and let’s get at it.”

He revenged himself by outvying Schumer in energy. They worked stripped
to the waist.

They had set themselves a herculean task. It was not only a question
of conveying small goods piecemeal in extemporized baskets; it was a
business also of carrying heavy stuff, bolts of cotton, and so forth
that could not be divided up.

There was not only the conveying to be done, but the storing. In this
nature helped them. The reef, or, rather, the island that formed this
part of the atoll had a big sink in it amid the grove at the back of
their encampment. Schumer thought that in ancient days natives must
have made this hollow by artificial means for some reason or other,
possibly as a big rain pond, though that supposition seemed negatived
by the existence of the natural well that lay in the western border
of the grove. However, it had been formed there. It was almost a pit,
a hundred yards long, shelving toward the ends and densely protected
by trees to seaward. Schumer calculated that owing to this density of
vegetation and the fact of the ends having drainage into the lagoon,
this trench would not fill up, let the rain come heavy as it might. On
the fact that the waves from the heaviest sea could not reach it he was
assured by the configuration of the outside reef.

He had fixed on a week’s work, and at the end of that time, though they
had done much, they had not done all; still, he seemed satisfied, as
well he might be.

They had cached all the provisions, they had salved a fair portion of
the perishable trade, and covered this portion of the salvage with
sailcloth, and of all their work this was the most laborious and
trying. They had removed the rifles, fifty in number, from their cases,
and stored them with the ammunition in a separate cache; they had
four navy revolvers of the Colt type, and these with the ammunition
for them they kept in the tent. Last, but not least, there was the
liquor–cases of trade gin, and a few cases of wine.

Schumer did not bother to cache these–he dealt with them in another
fashion.

“It’s waste of money,” said he, “but I have been thinking it out. This
square face is no use to man or brute; it’s only good to sell, and we
have no customers for it, and don’t want them. It’s dangerous stuff to
have about. The wine is different; there’s not much of it, and it may
turn in useful, but the gin has to go.”

He opened the cases, and they smashed the bottles, heaving them on
to the raw coral beyond the wreck, so that the glass might not be in
the way. The air stank with the fumes of the filthy stuff while the
smashing went on. Isbel helped, the instinct for destruction that lies
in human nature, and especially in children, seemed to have wakened up
in her to its full.

She laughed over the work. Floyd had never seen her laugh before,
and as he looked at her shining eyes and flashing teeth it seemed to
him that despite all the labors of the missionary here was an atom
of fighting and destructive force, useful for good or evil, and only
waiting on events for its development.

Continue Reading

DREDGING

They were up at dawn, and the fire was crackling and the coffee heating
before the sun had fully shown itself over the eastern reef line.

Schumer had been able to salve cooking utensils and some unbroken
crockery ware from the _Tonga_, to say nothing of knives and forks and
spoons.

It seems a small matter, but a knife and a fork make all the difference
when one comes to food, even on an island of the Pacific–a plate, too.

Condemned to eat with one’s fingers and to share a knife in common, one
feeds, but one does not eat.

There was condensed milk for the coffee, ship’s bread and salt pork
fried over the fire. Isbel had collected some plantains; they went into
the frying pan to help the pork. She had also gathered some drupes from
a pandanus tree growing near the wreck, and served them on a big leaf.

“There’s a whole lot of seeds aboard somewhere,” said Schumer, as they
breakfasted; “onions and carrots and so on; I must hunt for them, and
when we have time I’ll see how they grow here. You can grow anything on
these islands. The soil’s the best in the world; maybe because of the
gull guano. We’ll want all the native-grown food we can get here, if
things turn out as I expect, for we’ll have to feed the labor we bring,
and natives aren’t happy without the stuff they are used to. Corned
beef and spuds are all very well in their way, but it’s breadfruit and
taro and plantains that are the stand-by. Fortunately there seems lots.
You see all that dark-green stuff growing over there straight across
the lagoon–that’s breadfruit; big trees, too, and the coconuts aren’t
bad.

“When we get the labor we’ll have a main camp over by the fishing
ground. I’ve been thinking it all out. There’s no natural water there,
but I noticed yesterday a big rain pond in the coral; it must have
been cut out by natives some time or another. The funny thing about
these ponds is that the water is saltish at high tides, but gets fresh
with the ebb. In some of the islands the natives stock them with fish,
salt-water fish swimming in fresh.

“Then we have the fishing to fall back on, and the lagoon is full. Yes,
we are not badly placed as things go.”

They placed the dredge on board the boat and some food for the midday
meal, and pushed off, leaving Isbel behind to look after the camp and
keep an eye out for ships. At the sight of a sail anywhere on the sea
she was to light the fire and make a smoke with green wood, and she
had a splendid lookout post, for the deck of the _Tonga_, onto which
she could easily climb, gave a complete view of the horizon from all
directions.

Then they rowed off, leaving her watching them, a solitary figure on
the beach.

“Seems she’ll be a bit lonely,” said Floyd.

“Not she,” replied Schumer; “she’ll be happy enough alone, and she has
lots to do between washing up and keeping a lookout. Kanakas are never
lonely; it’s a disease of civilization.”

“You look upon these people as if they were animals,” said Floyd.

“Which they are,” replied Schumer–“animals dressed in human skin.”

Floyd said nothing. He was not a psychologist or a philosopher, but
a man of action; yet he gauged something of the strange make-up of
Schumer’s mind. Here was a man of keen intelligence, a quoter of
Scheffel, an appreciator of beauty, apparently a kindly individual,
but in some respects apparently hard beyond belief, and in others
apparently blind.

Floyd had some knowledge of the Polynesian natives, he was gaining some
knowledge of Schumer, and he was to gain more knowledge of both–of the
civilized man and the savage and their respective worth.

They got to work in two-fathom water on the northern edge of the great
bed. They stripped for the business. Both men were good swimmers and
expert divers, and the dredge did its work fairly well. They agreed
to take the diving business in half-hour tricks, one remaining in the
boat with a view to possible sharks, though sharks were scarcely to be
feared in that part of the lagoon, and to keep the boat moving when the
dredge was in operation.

Floyd was the first to go down. At a depth of twelve feet it was as
bright almost as at the surface. The water seemed to hold light in
solution; glancing up, the white-painted boat floating like a balloon
above him showed a tinge of rose; passing scraps of focus were all
spangled and sparkled over as though powdered with jewel dust; his arm,
newly immersed, was diamonded by tiny beads of air. In this silent,
brilliant world of crystal and color one only wanted gills to find life
in perfection and fairyland in material form.

There were few fish here, but occasionally a colored phantom would
slow up, pause, and whisk off, fry would pass like a flight of silver
needles, and great jellyfish quartered like melons and absolutely
invisible till glimpsed by reflected light.

All these things he noticed in his first submersion; after that the
labor of the business prevented him from noticing anything much except
the work on hand, cruel and murderously hard work to the man unused
to it. The dredge was almost useless at first; it had to be taken up
and altered, then, as it was dragged along, he followed it, helping
it, picking up loose oysters and putting them in the bag. He could
only work for less than half a minute at a time, coming up for a two
minutes’ breathing spell, and as he worked he could feel now and then
what seemed a warm wind trying to blow him aside as the wind blows
thistledown. It was the swell of the incoming tide.

They had arranged to work in half-hour tricks, but they found this
absolutely impossible; before the end of the first twenty minutes Floyd
confessed himself beaten and Schumer took his place.

An hour before noon they knocked off. They had taken a large quantity
of oysters, despite the limited means at their disposal, enough to sink
the boat a strake or two and give them an hour’s work in unloading and
spreading their catch on the coral on the windward side of the reef.

Then they took three hours’ rest under the shade of the trees. At
sundown they had completed their day’s work, and they felt as though
they had been laboring for fifty years.

They had overdone it.

Though they had dived as little as possible during the second half of
the day’s work, using the dredge as much as they could, the work had
nearly broken them, owing to the sudden and tremendous strain put on
their lungs.

Schumer recognized the reason of their exhaustion.

“We should have broken ourselves to it by degrees,” said he–“done a
couple of hours’ work instead of a whole day’s. We are fools. We didn’t
want to strip the lagoon; we were only after a sample, and could have
taken a week over it. Well, we can take things easy to-morrow.”

They rowed back to the camp and found Isbel waiting for them, and
supper.

They had come back in low spirits, but after supper and a cup of coffee
the surprising thing happened–their spirits jumped up as though under
the influence of alcohol. Prolonged strain in diving produces these
results–the tissues that have been starved or partly starved of oxygen
reabsorb it with renewed vigor.

They lay on the sand and smoked and talked, and Floyd built castles and
furnished them with his prospective fortune.

“Suppose,” said he, “we strike it rich–very rich–what may we net out
of this?”

“It all depends,” said Schumer, “if this is a real pearl lagoon;
anything up to a hundred thousand, and maybe more. Pearls are a
disease, and the disease is more prevalent in some waters than others.
I don’t know why, no one does. It may be the temperature or the stuff
the water holds in solution, it may be the breed of the oyster; but
there you have it. Every oyster under the sun is a pearl oyster, at
least may be capable of growing pearls. I found a pearl once in an
oyster which I was eating in a restaurant in Hamburg. It wasn’t a big
pearl, but it was a pearl. I sold it for thirty marks. But one thing
is sure, it’s only in tropical and subtropical waters that you find
pearls of any account or to any account. It’s only in the tropics and
subtropics you find color and stuff that’s rich and worth having. The
north–pah! What does it give us? Iron and tin, wood, copper. It’s the
south where the gold is, where the pearls are. Why, the very earth
in the south hides color and riches! Where are the diamond mines? In
Africa and Brazil. The ruby and emerald mines? In Burma and Brazil and
India. The gold? California and Africa. The silver? Peru. Look at the
birds; there’s not a colored bird in the north that hasn’t come from
the south; look at the shells and the corals, and the flowers and the
people; look at the sun. No, the south holds everything worth having
or seeing. You ask me what I would do if I were rich? Well, I would
not go north, or only for a while. I’d stay in the south, fix my home
somewhere not too close to the equator, take an island in these seas,
and have it for my own.”

“Can you buy islands?”

“You can buy land; one might buy a small island from some of the
governments, or rent it; but I’d sooner have the most land in a big
island than the whole of a little one. Once you have got your grip on
land you have power. Nothing else gives you so much power; funny,
that, isn’t it? Money, you would say, gives power. It only gives the
power to buy or to meddle in other people’s affairs through paid
agents. If you have got your grip on the earth, and the things that
come out of it, and the people who live on it, you have power; and
power is the only thing worth having in the world.”

“Good Lord!” said Floyd. “There’s a lot of things I’d sooner have.”

“And what things may those be?”

“Well, I want to have a good time and see other people having a good
time. I want to travel, not as the mate of an old hooker like the
_Cormorant_, but as a man with money in his pocket and time to look
around him. I want to be able to buy things. I want to dress decently
and to marry some time or another and settle down. I’m fond of horses,
though I’ve never had the chance to own one; and I’m fond of cricket,
though I’ve never touched a bat for years. I’m fond of a jolly good
dinner, and I’m fond of a good cigar. To get all those things one wants
money.”

“And all those things come to you if you have power,” said Schumer.
“It implies everything material, and much more. It’s the sense of it,
the feeling ‘I am the stronger man,’ that gives the mind freedom and
ease to enjoy what money can bring. You are entirely English; you want
enjoyment and luxury without foundation of strength.”

“Oh, good heavens!” said Floyd, “I think we have a pretty solid
foundation of strength; we own half the earth, and we hold it–why?
Simply because we live and let live. We don’t try to grind people down
with what you call power. We give them power, liberty, whatever you
like to call it. Now you are a man who has traveled, and so am I. Can
you tell me any spot on earth that a man may be really free in that’s
not under the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes? Take the German
colonies, the Dutch; haven’t you always some pesky official shoving
his nose into your affairs? Take the very port officers and customs,
and it’s the same all through the country as well as on the coast.
You can’t breathe in these places the same as you can where there’s
a decent English or American administration. I’ve heard foreigners
wondering how it is we hold India–all those hundreds of millions of
natives under the rule of a few thousand white men. As a matter of
fact, we don’t hold it at all; it holds itself. A native in Bombay is
as free as a duke in Piccadilly; that’s our secret.”

Schumer laughed.

“And at any moment,” said he, “those very free natives are ready to
rise in their hundreds of millions and cut your throats.”

“I don’t think so,” said Floyd. “Men don’t cut the throats of their
best friends.”

Schumer yawned.

To argue with Schumer was like pressing against India rubber–the
pressure left no impression.

They talked for a while longer on indifferent subjects, and then turned
in under the shelter of the tent.

The night was almost windless, and the great southern stars stood
out like jewels crusting the whole dome of the sky from sea edge to
sea edge. The Milky Way, like a vast band of white smoke cut by the
terrific pit of a coal sack, Canopus, and the Cross, filled the world
with the mystery of starlight.

Away out on the weather side of the reef near the wreck, and clear in
the starlight against the coral, was seated a figure. It was Isbel.
She had not yet turned into whatever haunt she had in the bush, and
with her knees drawn up and clasped by her hands she was watching the
regular fall of the breakers.

The child seemed under the spell of the vast sea, an atom in face of
the infinite.

Continue Reading

SCHUMER’S STORY

They rowed back across the lagoon to the camp, and there Schumer set to
on the construction of his dredge.

Floyd had suddenly found an object of interest on the island almost as
absorbing as the oyster bed, and that object was Schumer.

Schumer had seemed to him at first a simple trader bound up in trade,
one of a class that swarms in the Pacific. Bound up in trade he
undoubtedly was, but there was all the difference in the world between
him and the others of his class that Floyd had come across in his
wanderings.

Perhaps the hardest thing in the world to put one’s finger on is
personality, or the power that tells in a man’s appearance, actions,
and speech. Its essence lies in complexity, and is born of all the
multitudinous attributes that form spirit.

Floyd watched Schumer working on the dredge, and wondered at his
ingenuity and power over metal and wood. He had but little material to
his hand–cask hoops and old ironwork from the wreck, and so on–yet he
made the most of it, and did not grumble. He explained the mechanism of
the thing when he had finished. He had set Isbel to work stitching the
canvas bag which was part of the dredge, and she sat mysterious as a
sphinx, working and listening to him as he talked.

Then, later on, as they smoked after supper and watched the stars break
out over the lagoon, Schumer went on talking, now of trade and the wild
work he had seen here and there in the Pacific.

He was vague, rarely giving the names of islands or places, contenting
himself with such wide terms as “It was an island south of the
Marshalls,” or “It was down in the Solomons.” It was down in the
Solomons that he had got the scar on his arm which he showed to Floyd.

“That’s fifteen years old,” said he; “it missed the artery or I
wouldn’t be here now. I was only twenty then and new to the islands,
new to the sea also. I’d taken passage in a big schooner; two hundred
and fifty tons she was, captained by a Yankee skipper, and manned by
the biggest crowd of rascals that ever sailed out of Frisco to meet
perdition.

“We put in at a big island southeast of Manahiki. I went ashore with
the old man, the first mate, and two of the hands that could be
trusted. We were all well armed, and lucky for us we were.

“It was the bos’n who started the trouble–a big, black-bearded chap,
half Irish, quarter Scotch, with a tar brush somewhere in his family.
Not a good mixture by any means.

“We hadn’t been ashore ten minutes when this chap took the schooner.
There were no preliminaries. She had a big brass swivel gun, and he
turned it on the beach and let fly. He’d loaded her with a bag of
bullets, and the first shot smashed the boat we’d landed in, smashed
the only canoes in the place, and tore up the sand as if it had been
plowed. Fortunately we had seen his game and scattered, but two natives
were killed, and the rest took to the bush.

“So did we, and under cover of the leaves we watched what was going on
in the schooner.

“They seemed pretty satisfied with themselves. They were sure against
attack; they had smashed our boat and the canoes, and they were pretty
certain we wouldn’t try to board them by swimming, for the lagoon was
full of sharks. They brought up grog and took to dancing on deck. Their
object, of course, was to get away with the schooner and all the trade
on board, change her name, and make for some port on the South American
coast, and sell schooner and cargo and all. There was money aboard,
too–the ship’s money and some coin of the old man’s, and fifty British
sovereigns of my own hid in my bunk, though the beggars did not guess
that.

“Yes, they should have knocked the shackle off the anchor chain and
got to sea at once; they chose instead to drink and dance, celebrating
their victory. You see they did not know whom they were dealing with.

“From where we lay we could have picked them off like crows with our
rifles. Of course, that would have meant they would have gone below
and hid, and then at dark they’d have gone away. It would have sobered
them, too, and I did not want that.

“So we let them be, putting our trust in the bottle, and we set to and
made a raft with the help of some of the natives who were hiding in the
bush with us.

“There was a little creek hidden from the schooner by a cape of coconut
and pandanus trees, and we made the raft there, and a rotten raft it
was; but it served our purpose, and when dark came down we shoved off,
us four and two natives.

“The tide was with us; it was running out of the lagoon. The natives
had canoe paddles, but they scarcely used them. Not a soul was on deck;
they were all in the saloon drinking, and the noise was worse than a
tavern on the Barbary Coast of a Saturday night. They wouldn’t have
heard us coming alongside if we had come blowing trumpets–which we
didn’t.”

Schumer paused to refill and light his pipe. The lagoon was now a sheet
of stars, and not a sound came but the murmur of the reef and the
splash of a fish jumping in the lagoon.

“We came alongside, and in a minute we were over the rail–she had a
low freeboard–every man of us. We didn’t trouble about the raft, and
she went out to sea on the tide.

“The saloon hatch was off, and there they were all crowded like bees
in a bottle fighting and playing cards and drinking and smoking, and
there as they sat we began to plug them with our Winchesters. We got
six before the smoke of the firing hid them, and then we fired into
the smoke and stood by to down them as they came up the companionway.
They were plucky, but mad with drink, and they had no arms to speak of.
One of them had a bottle in his hand, the only thing he could find to
fight with; when he tumbled over into the lee scuppers he still held it
unbroken, and I guess he went before his Maker with it like that.

“We settled them all with the exception of the bos’n. He skulked
below, and I went down to find him. The saloon was clear of smoke and
the swinging lamp was burning; dead men were lying everywhere, but no
bos’n. He’d taken refuge in the old man’s cabin and had barricaded
the door, so that I couldn’t kick it in–only managed to crack the
paneling; so I began firing through it with my revolver, and then out
he came with two bullets in him and a sheath knife in his hand.

“He gave me this cut before we had done with one another.

“The upshot was that every man of them was given his dose, and we took
the schooner out of the lagoon, us four, with four Kanakas who joined
the ship, and we had good luck all the rest of the voyage, though my
arm inflamed so that I nearly lost it.

“So you see a trader’s life out here is not all trading; one has to
fight sometimes for what one gets, and to keep what one gets.”

Floyd could not help thinking that Schumer’s part in the recapture of
the schooner had been more than he had stated.

“What’s made you take to trading out here?” he asked. “You’re a sailor,
aren’t you? At least I made the guess yesterday that you were a sailor
first and a trader after.”

“Yes, I began as a sailor. I served my two years before these new
topsail yards made reefing child’s work. I served in a Hamburg ship.
What made me a trader? Well, I suppose it was the common sense that
made me give up sailoring. I do not like hard manual labor. As I
told you before, it was on the cards that I might have cast my lines
in the newspaper world. Books interest me, written books; the world
interested me, and I might have been the correspondent of newspapers.
I am a fair linguist, and I can write simple English and picture fairly
well what I see in words; yet I am a trader. I do not know why I am a
trader in the least. It is the way of life that has come to me.”

He ceased, and they sat in silence for a moment.

Floyd, looking round, saw that Isbel had vanished; she had slipped off
to bed somewhere in the bush–slipped off like an animal. It was her
characteristic that she was one of the shipwrecked party, yet remained
apart. She helped in cooking and boat sailing and in other ways;
but she lived her own life as an animal lives it, thinking her own
thoughts, keeping her own counsel, speaking little. There was nothing
about her of the childish and the light-hearted that stamps so many
Polynesians, which is not to say that she was gloomy or too old for
her years. She was just a creature apart, and had always the air of a
looker-on at a game in which she helped, but which did not particularly
interest her.

“The girl’s gone,” said Floyd.

Schumer looked round.

“Crept off to sleep; she’ll sleep anywhere–in a tree or in the bush.
I can’t make out Kanakas. I’ve read a lot of stuff written about them,
but there’s always something behind that no one can get at. They
are right down good in a lot of ways, and right down bad in others.
Missionaries civilize them and varnish them over, but there’s always
the Kanaka underneath; they make Christians of them, but it’s only on
the outside. Look at that girl–she’s only a child, of course, but a
missionary has had the handling of her, and in the time we’ve been here
she has turned right in on herself and gone back to her people, so
to speak. She’s not bad, but she’s a savage, and nothing will make a
savage anything else than a savage, except, maybe, on the outside.”

“She seems pretty faithful and helps us all she can,” said Floyd.

“Oh, she’s not bad,” yawned Schumer; “and she’s a good deal of use in
her way, and she’s company of a sort, same as a dog or a cat. Well, I’m
going to turn in.”

He rose up and stretched himself, and looked at the starlit lagoon.

“It’s funny to think there’s maybe a fortune in pearls under all that,”
said he, “no knowing–but it will take some getting.”

“We’ll get it if it’s there,” said Floyd.

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