« PreviousContinue »
THE STORY OF THE "BOUNTY."
On the 27th April 1789, the crew of His Majesty's ship Bounty, then cruising in the neighbourhood of the Friendly Islands, broke out into open mutiny. In the dead of night a number of the sailors entered the cabin of the captain, Bligh, bound his hands behind his back, and, carrying him on deck, compelled him, with eighteen 'others who would not join the conspiracy, to descend into one of the ship's boats. A small quantity of bread and pork, and two or three bottles of wine and spirits, were thrown after them; and, thus supplied, the little craft set forth on its perilous voyage over the broad waters.
Driven by the hostility of the natives from one of the Friendly Islands, where they sought to land, the unhappy victims spent forty-eight days and nights on the ocean, exposed to the rigour of the elements, reduced during the latter part of their voyage to a quarter of a pint of cocoa-nut milk, as much bread as would weigh down a pistol bullet, an ounce of pork once a day, and a tea-spoonful of water every eight hours. At the end of that period of suffering they reached the Dutch station at Coupang, whence they procured a passage home.
When the news of this atrocious outrage reached England, the frigate Pandora was at once despatched to capture the mutineers. Fourteen of them were seized at Tahiti, where the graves of two or three others were pointed out. Of the remaining nine no trace whatever could be discovered, and the Pandora sailed away under the belief that they had perished at sea or under the clubs of the savages. The frigate was wrecked on its homeward voyage. Four of the prisoners were drowned; the remaining ten were conveyed to England; where four were acquitted, three pardoned, and three hung at the yard-arm.
Twenty-five years rolled by, and the occurrence had almost faded from the recollection of men. In 1814, two English men-of-war anchored off a pleasant island in the Pacific, about twelve hundred miles from Tahiti. Situated just beyond the tropics, having a rich and luxuriant vegetation, without the unhealthiness of a too luxuriant fertility, this green little speck on the bosom of the ocean tempted the sailors, weary of hard biscuits and salt pork, to visit it in search of fresh fruits and vegetables. Their surprise may be imagined, when, on approaching the shore, they beheld huts peeping forth among the groves. Two of the islanders were observed to run down to the beach with canoes on their backs, which they launched and quickly paddled towards the big ships. The sailors could hardly believe their ears when they heard one of the canoe-men call out, in good English, “Come, look alive there, and throw us a rope!”
When the visitors appeared on deck, they were seen to be two strapping, well-made young fellows, with handsome features of an English cast, but somewhat darker in complexion than the ordinary Anglo-Saxon tint. A strip of cotton round their middle, and a broad-brimmed straw hat adorned with black feathers, composed their entire costume, so that their muscular frames and imposing proportions (each being about six feet in height) were displayed to full advantage. Sir Thomas Staines, the captain, invited them to his table, and was much touched to observe, that before a morsel passed their lips, they clasped their hands, bent their heads, and reverently said grace.
The wonder of the English crews reached its climax when, on landing, they were greeted by an Englishman of venerable appearance, who disclosed himself as the sole survivor of the nine mutineers of the Bounty who had evaded the search of the Pandora, and were supposed to have died. His story was listened to with breathless interest :
Twice repulsed by the natives from Tahiti, the mutineers, at the instigation of Fletcher Christian, their leader, steered for Pitcairn Island, of which he had read an account in a volume of voyages which he picked up in the captain's cabin. Scarcely five miles in circumference, it looked like a great rock rising from the waves. Lofty, precipitous cliffs, rose from the sea on every side save one, where there was a narrow fringe of beach
leading to a steep ascent, shaded with cocoa, bread-fruit, and banana trees.
Twenty-eight persons disembarked from the Bounty. There were nine mutineers, each with a woman of Tahiti, whom he had taken to wife; and six natives of the same island, of whom three were married, and one had an infant. Grotesque representations of the sun, moon, and other objects of idolatry, graven on the rocks, several spear-heads made of flint, and a few ghastly skulls which were strewed about, proved that the island had been inhabited before they arrived ; but they found no trace of any living being. One of their first acts was to destroy the Bounty. Thus they cut off from themselves all means of escape from their island prison.
Dissolute and passionate men, destitute of moral principle and self-control, they soon showed that they had not got rid of one authority in order to subject themselves to another. Christian tried to maintain some sort of order amongst them, and for a short time succeeded. Soon, however, the Englishmen and the Tabitians came to blows, and blood was shed on both sides. The blacks conspired to murder the whites; but the wives of the latter discovered the plot on the eve of its execution. The result of such feuds it is not difficult to conceive. In less than a year Christian and four of his companions were massacred by the Tahitians; who, in turn, all died violent deaths before the same year closed.
One of the Englishmen, with perverse ingenuity, converted an old copper kettle, which he had brought from the ship, into an alembic, and distilled an intoxicating liquor from the root of a plant which grew on the island. This introduced a new element of misery among the unhappy settlers. The man who had invented the liquor, in a fit of delirium tremens flung himself from a high cliff into the sea. The desperate Englishmen, having no Indians to abuse, quarrelled with each other, and several fatal conflicts ensued. Up to the time when the English ships discovered the colony, only one of the mutineers had died a natural death, and John Adams was the sole survivor.
Although only fifty years of age, the terrible scenes in which he had taken part, and the anxiety and remorse which they had caused, had wrinkled his brow and blanched his hair, so that he seemed quite an old man. By the widows and children of his old companions he was looked up to as a patriarch. He had rescued from the Bounty a Bible and a book of prayers, in the perusal of which he found sweet consolation in the midst of his misery. He had devoted himself zealously to the education of the young: he read to them daily portions of Holy Writ, and taught their tongues to lisp a prayer. He also maintained order in the island, and was always resorted to for advice in difficulties or as an umpire in disputes. Notwithstanding his reformed life, it was a long time before Adams ceased to be disturbed by a dread of retribution for his share in the mutiny. Once or twice a vessel had approached the island, and he and the other Englishmen had hid themselves in caves, until their sails no longer specked the waters. When Sir Thomas Staines arrived, however, Adams conquered his first impulse to conceal himself, and came down to the beach to welcome his countrymen.
Once introduced to the knowledge of Europeans, the Pitcairn islanders received frequent visits from passing ships.
Their primitive ideas as to dress and other matters were enlarged ; and they began to exchange the produce of their little farms for articles of comfort and luxury. The young men might be seen strutting about, one in a black swallow-tailed coat, another in a shirt and trousers Shoes and stockings were gradually intro
. duced, and a battered beaver was occasionally donned on festivals. The sale of spirits was strictly prohibited ; but tea, coffee, sugar, flour, &c., were gladly received.
In the course of years this little colony multiplied to such a degree that it outgrew its agricultural resources. As the island could no longer afford sustenance to its inhabitants, they sought a home elsewhere. In 1857 they were remo
moved, at their own request, but at the expense of the British Government, to Norfolk Island. Here in former days was located a penal settlement, of which many a tale of horror is told. Where once stood the grim borrack into which the wretched convicts used to be driven at dusk, to prey upon each other till morning,--and before the grated windows of which stalked sentries who had orders to fire into any room where they heard a tumult, if at their bidding it did not at once cease—now stand the little chapel and the schools of the new colonists.
Norfolk Island is one thousand miles from Sydney. Girdled by a coral reef, it is very difficult of approach ; but when reached, is found to be a place of great beauty and fertility. It consists of a series of hills, crowned with magnificent groves of gigantic pine, graceful palmetto, guava, lemon, and fern trees. Yellow corn-fields wave by the side of gardens in which grow the delicate cinnamon tree, the tea and coffee shrubs, the sugarcane, the banana, and luxuriant vines. It cannot be doubted that the good islanders have been fortunate in exchanging Pitcairn for Norfolk Island ; and it is gratifying to know that their life, if not so primitive, is as peaceful and happy as in their old home. The patriarch Adams died in 1829, in his sixty-fifth year; and Mrs. Young, the last survivor of those who arrived at Pitcairn Island in the Bounty, died in 1850. It remains to be seen what effect more extended intercourse with the rest of the world will have on this singular community.
J. II, FYFE.
THE UNKNOWN ISLES.
Oh! many are the beauteous isles
Like showers of vernal snow; Unknown to human eye,
And from the fruit-tree, spreading tall,
Oft as sea breezes blow!
The joy of all that loveliness ;
Now silent lies each scattered bay!
To their shores of silvery sand,
glee, As rainbow hues or dawning light,
All hurrying in a joyful band, Float ever on the fragrant air,
Come dancing from the sea.