All that morning and all that day Schumer kept the hands busy at
work bringing the shell across the lagoon and storing it aboard the
_Southern Cross_. Some of it was rafted over and some brought in the
whaleboat. Schumer superintended everything himself, and now that speed
was urgent he proved what he could do as a driver.
Never did a Yankee stevedore work a set of hands harder. His voice
acted as a whiplash, and his energy infected everybody.
Next day it was the same, so that at sundown the last of the shell was
on board, the locking bars secured, and nothing remained but to take on
“We can do that to-night,” said Schumer, “and if this wind holds,
though there is not much of it, you will be able to start at sunup. It
will be slack tide about then. Now, if you will come up to the house, I
will give you the last details of what you have to do in Sydney. There
is nothing like having everything cut and dried.”
They went up to the house, and Schumer at once plunged into accounts.
He had tabulated a list of all the stores required, and he had written
down the main points in Floyd’s program, even to the address of a house
where he could stay.
Hakluyt looked on while the two men talked, and, when they had
finished, the three went out, Hakluyt and Schumer to see to the
watering of the vessel and Floyd to find Isbel.
It was a night of the full moon, a hot, almost windless, night filled
with the scent of flowers and the song of the reef.
The moon hung almost in the zenith, the apex of a pyramid of light, and
under the silent whiteness of the moon the island lay clipping the vast
pond of the lagoon in its arms as a mistress holds her lover.
Hakluyt and Schumer had taken the boat to fetch the water casks, and
from away out over the water came the sound of the oars. The fellows
over at the fishing camp were singing, untired by their day’s work,
and now and then on a stronger puff of wind a snatch of their song
came over the lagoon water, and, just for a moment, as Floyd stood by
the water edge, all his trouble of mind lifted from him–for a moment.
The brilliant light, the beauty of the scene before him, the snatch of
song from the fishing camp, and the perfume of the flower-scented wind
seemed to open doors in his mind through which from some remote past
came happiness. The moonlight for a moment caught some magic from the
morning of the world. Then he turned and went toward the outer reef
edge, where Isbel was waiting for him.
* * * * *
An hour before dawn the beach before the house was astir. The moon had
sunk, but the stars gave enough light to work by. The water was all
aboard, and now some coconuts, breadfruit, and taro roots were being
taken off. Floyd was directing operations. He had said good-by to
Isbel, who was nowhere to be seen. He sat in the stern sheets of the
fruit boat, steering, and when the stuff was transshipped he boarded
the _Southern Cross_ and sent the empty boat back for Schumer and
Schumer came on board, and stood chatting while the hands were at the
capstan bars getting the slack of the anchor chain in. Then when the
mainsail was being set and the hands were at the halyards, Schumer
slipped over the side into the boat and pushed off for shore.
As the anchor came up, Floyd, who was forward superintending the men,
left Joe to see to the securing of it and came aft to where Hakluyt was
standing by the wheel.
The dawn was now bright in a sky that showed scarcely a trace of
morning bank. It came over the reef and between the palms, whose trunks
stood like bars against the brightening east. It flooded the lagoon
as the schooner gathered way, and the great trapezium of the mainsail
showed a tip of rose gold as they passed the pierheads of the reef. On
the pierhead to port something showed white against the coral. It was
The _Southern Cross_ rose to the swell at the break of the reef just
as a horse rises to a low fence, the foam roared in her wake, and the
noise of it mixed with the clatter of the rudder chain as the fellow at
the wheel twirled the spokes. Floyd raised his hand, and Isbel signaled
in reply as the wind, now gaining its morning strength, pressed the
schooner over to the tune of straining cordage and creaking blocks.
Floyd, leaning on the after rail, looked backward. The little figure of
Isbel was no longer to be seen, blotted out by distance. Then distance
took the reef, leaving only a trace of palm tops above the blazing
water, and in an hour the Island of Pearls had vanished like a dream
beyond the edge of the sea.