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
“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
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
“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.