Next morning Schumer took Floyd aside.
“Hakluyt is well pleased with the work here,” said he. “He thinks the
prospects even better than I made them out to him, and now he wants to
“Does he?” said Floyd. The news came as a pleasant surprise.
“Yes, he has got his business in Sydney to attend to and he’s keen on
getting back at once. Of course he goes in the _Southern Cross_, but he
can’t go alone, for the schooner has to be brought back.”
“To be sure.”
“You must go with him,” said Schumer. “There is no one else for the
“I!” exclaimed Floyd.
“Yes, there is no one else. I have been away too long. In fact I only
got back in time to save the situation. You are a very good fellow,
Floyd, but you aren’t much use for working natives. It’s not your
business in life; it is mine.”
“But see here,” said the other, “why can’t Hakluyt send the schooner
back with another man in charge? There are lots of men in Sydney who
could do the job.”
“Yes, and what would that mean? Letting another man into our secrets.
Surely you are not against doing your share of the work.”
“I!” cried Floyd, flushing. “Have I ever refused to do all in my power
to help? Of course I will go. Only, the thing has come on me as a
surprise, and, I will say it frankly, an unpleasant surprise. You say
Hakluyt wants to go back at once. Well, I think you might have told me
of it some days ago. You must have known all along.”
“I did not,” said Schumer. “Of course I knew he wanted to go, but I
did not know he wanted to go so soon. What does it matter? You have no
preparations to make.”
“How about the navigating on the way back?” asked Floyd, ignoring the
last remark. “You had Hakluyt to help you coming, but if I am to come
back single-handed it seems to me I will be in a bad way.”
“You will have Mountain Joe,” replied Schumer. “I have given special
attention to that gentleman’s education on the voyage to Sydney and
back. You remember he could work out a dead reckoning even when I took
him in hand. He was absolutely useless by himself, but under guidance
he could be quite useful. Well, he knows a lot more now, and if I could
get to Sydney with him as he was then, you can surely get back from
Sydney with him as he is now.”
“Oh, I suppose that will be all right,” said Floyd. “And what am I to
do in Sydney besides dumping Hakluyt there?”
“You will unlade the shell which I am sending and take in some more
provisions. The _Southern Cross_ wants an overhaul–that will take a
week or ten days–she wants some new spars and a few barnacles scraped
off her. We want a big lot of canned stuff, vegetables, and bully beef.
I’ll talk to you to-night about that. Hakluyt is in the way of getting
it cheaper than we could if we were working alone.”
“How long do you think we will have to stay in Sydney?”
“Oh, about three weeks or so.”
“It will be over two months before I can get back.”
“And when exactly do you want me to start?”
“Oh, in a couple of days. It will take us that to get the shell aboard.
I am going to start on the work this morning. I’ll get all the hands on
it, crew and fishermen both. We can get the stuff on board on the raft
and with the help of the whaleboat.”
“Very well,” said Floyd, “I’ll go.”
He turned away and walked along the lagoon edge. Always when Fortune
turned toward him she had something unpleasant to add to her gifts.
The pink pearl had been followed by the running away of Isbel, and the
great white pearl by the mutiny of the hands. Isbel had been given to
him only yesterday, and now he had to leave her.
Since yesterday he had lived in a state of extraordinary happiness.
Wonderland. To love and to find that you are loved. There is nothing
else. No dream can come near this reality. And now he had to leave her.
He crossed the reef, and stood looking out to sea. The Pacific lay
blazing beneath the morning light, blue beyond the sun dazzle and
heaving shoreward to burst in foam at his feet. The breeze came fresh
across it, vivid and full of life. Floyd loved the sea.
It had become part of his nature and part of his being. It was his
second mother. But to-day he was looking at it with fresh eyes. It was
no longer the sea; it was separation from all he cared for and all he
loved. He would have to leave Isbel and leave her with Schumer.
When he had landed on the island first, Schumer had impressed him
favorably, but little by little and by that slow process through which
a complex and illusive personality makes its quality known to a simple
and straightforward mind, he had come to the point of distrust as
He had no fear at all that Schumer would harm Isbel. Isbel was a person
who could well take care of herself, and Schumer, he distinctly felt,
was not a man dangerous to women. The instinctive feeling of danger
had to do with himself. He was a fifth wheel in Schumer’s chariot, an
absorber of profits, and though he refused the thought that Schumer
might attempt to get rid of him, he could not refuse the instinct.
He felt suddenly surrounded by an atmosphere of danger none the less
disturbing from the fact that he could not tell from what point it
arose. He disliked this journey to Sydney, and he disliked Hakluyt even
Brave as any man could be, he feared for his own safety, not for his
own sake, but for the sake of Isbel. Should anything happen to him what
would become of her?
And there was nothing he could do. He was completely in the grasp of
events. He could not refuse to perform this obvious duty that had
suddenly been laid down before him by Schumer. He could not take Isbel
with him, and he could not take any precautions as to his own safety
beyond simple watchfulness.
He turned back from the sea, and as he turned he saw Isbel. She was
standing at the edge of the grove, and the trees quite sheltered them
from the sight of the people by the house. He came toward her, and they
entered the grove together.
Close to the sea edge of the grove a huge tree had fallen. Rotten with
age, it had crashed its way through the lesser trees and lay like a
dead giant over which the undergrowth had cast its green skirts in
part. They sat down upon it, and Isbel, nestling up close beside him,
rested her head upon his shoulder.
Then he told her that he was going. Told her the whole thing and the
reasons that held him. Told her that the separation would only be for a
little while, and surely, surely he would come back, and as he talked
and explained he felt her shudder as a person shudders from the cold.