April 12th. At 8 A.M. we went off in one of the island whale boats. As soon as Carleton got on board the Colonist, he went up to Captain Marshall and shook bands with him. Captain M. at first did not recognise him; but very soon did, and, as may be supposed, was much surprised to find his old acquaintance upon such an out of the way island. After breakfast we both asked Captain Marshall if he could not make room for us, as neither of us was a Daniel Lambert, nor were we encumbered with much baggage. He again told us that he had no room, and that his people were on short allowance already. The islanders then asked us if we were ready to go on shore with them, as they were ready to go. Carleton looked at me and I looked at him. I was impelled to petition the captain once more to make room for us, when he again denied us; but with some little hesitation, which I took advantage of, and offered to put provisions on board for ourselves, if he would only make room for us. He looked down the hatchway of the fore cabin and said—”If you can manage to sleep there, you may go,” pointing to the lockers where we were to sleep. We both thanked him, and most willingly accepted the kind offer.
We then returned on shore, taking with us a Mr. Carwardine, one of our intended messmates, whom we looked upon in the light of a hostage, insuring us against the departure of the vessel while we should be making our adieus. Many of our kind and dear friends met us upon our landing, seemingly afraid to ask what success we had met with. Our boat’s crew relieved us from the unpleasant task of communicating the news ourselves. It will be some time before I forget the pretty faces of some of the women, their cheeks covered with tears when they were made aware of our intention of leaving them, which they said was very unkind upon our part; I told them it was our duty to take the first opportunity which presented itself; but that we should never cease to bear them in mind.
One of the boat’s crew had heard me speak to the captain about bringing some provisions on board for our own use, which he mentioned forthwith to those on shore. One and all set to work without delay, and collected for us as much as filled a large whale boat, pigs, goats, ducks, fowls, pines, oranges, lemons, bananas, plantains, and cocoa nuts, along with two large sacks of sweet potatoes and yams. Owing to the almost immediate arrival of the Colonist, the islanders were unable to execute their provident intention with regard to the lime juice, and we shall lose the pleasure of surprising them in the manner we had anticipated. After taking leave of my worthy host, Mr. Nobbs, and also of Mr. Buffett, who did not accompany us to the landing-place, we all, I may say the whole population, proceeded to the place of embarkation.
Before leaving, Mr. Nobbs paid us both a very high compliment relative to our moral and sedate behaviour while resident upon the island; indeed we had both of us made a point of never being out after dark, to obviate all chance of remarks being made, and which the natives had not been slow to observe. I may here mention a matter in which the islanders take the greatest interest, of which I have made hitherto but little mention, purposely that I might wait the issue of the experiment. As might be supposed, our great anxiety was to make some little return for the warm hospitality with which we were treated; a wish however which it was not so easy to gratify seeing that our sole possessions, when we found ourselves left on shore, consisted of the clothes we wore and a tuning-fork which happened to be in the baron’s pocket.
It luckily occurred to my friend Carleton, who had observed their imperfect attempt at psalmody in church, that a little musical instruction might prove a great amusement to them. Our worthy friends caught at the proposal with eagerness; and on the very same day all the needful apparatus—a ruled board, conductors, baton, &c.,—were prepared, and the first lesson was given to the whole adult population, in a new house as yet unoccupied. They proved remarkably intelligent, not one among the number being deficient in ear, while many had exceedingly fine voices. The progress surpassed the most sanguine expectation of the teacher; on the fourth day from the commencement, they sang through a catch in four parts, with great steadiness; for people who had been hitherto unaware even of the existence in nature of harmony the performance was very remarkable. Both pupils and preceptor appeared to take equal delight in the task; and we heard them, after a fort night’s instruction, singing among themselves in the open air trios and quartettos, for the most part performed in chorus, during the greater part of the night. They have among them some books of instruction in this delightful art, and are now sufficiently advanced to be able to pursue the study without assistance. It is very gratifying to leave behind us some little memorial of our residence, even though it be of so airy a nature as this; abiding our time to requite so much kindness with tokens of a more substantial nature. Our situation upon the island was certainly, in a manner of speaking, an unfortunate one; but nevertheless a happy period in our lives, and to have given cause for offence would have been a most foul breach of hospitality. May every one who enjoys the pleasure of a few days’ sojourn on the island, be looked upon on leaving with the same respect as we ourselves!
I am now going to make what may be perhaps considered a strong assertion, which is, that there never was, and perhaps never will be, another community who can boast of so high a tone of morality, or more firmly rooted religious feelings, than our worthy and true friends the Pitcairn islanders. To have witnessed such a state of things is a blessing that few men and fewer women have ever been privileged to enjoy upon God’s earth. The only islanders that I ever saw that at all approached them in one of these respects, is the island of Mauke, one of the Hervy Islands, which I visited in 1842, on my way from Tahiti to New Zealand; an island about four times as large as Pitcairn’s, with a population of about 400. They were brought up and taught under a native teacher from Tahiti, some forty years ago, who was taken there by the late Rev. John Williams and the Rev. Mr. Barff of Hauhine, one of the Society Islands. On this island there were one or two strange women from some of the neighbouring islands, who had committed themselves; but upon Pitcairn’s such a transgression was never known since old John Adams’s time.
A scene followed our arrival at the landing-place, while the boat was being loaded, that I shall never forget. The poor girls clung round us as we stood upon the beach; but more especially did they cling round my friend Carleton, who had taken so much trouble in teaching them to sing; many of them with the handkerchiefs thrown over their heads, and all of them in floods of tears. We tried to put a bold face upon the matter, but had much ado to maintain that decorous impassibility which is required of men with beards upon their chins. Carleton tried to get up a chorus; but it broke down, and only made matters worse. This scene lasted for about an hour. One of the passengers of the Colonist (Mr. Carwardine), who was not in the secret, looked on in mute astonishment; and I am sure that Carleton, as well as myself, felt glad when the signal for embarkation was made by the boatmen. Things having gone so far, we thought we might make a handsome finale to our sojourn upon the island. We first took our worthy hostesses, who were rather ancient matrons, and gave them what was probably the heartiest kiss they had received these many years. The ice once broken, there was no affectation of mock modesty, we went to all in turn, and gave and took in right good earnest: the contrast here was great, as we had hitherto behaved with the most marked reserve; but we parted with the same feelings as if we had been members of the same family.
And thus ends my brief stay among the most simple, innocent, and affectionate people it was ever my lot to be thrown amongst. There is a charm in perfect innocence which he must be indeed hackneyed and hardened who cannot feel. Such a society, so free, not only from vice, but even from those petty bickerings and jealousies—those minor infirmities which we are accustomed to suppose are ingrained in human nature—can probably not be paralleled elsewhere. It is the realisation of Arcadia, or what we had been accustomed to suppose had existence only in poetic imagination,—the golden age; all living as one family, a commonwealth of brothers and sisters, which, indeed, by ties of relationship they actually are; the earth yielding abundantly, requiring only so much labour as suffices to support its occupants, and save them from the listlessness of inactivity: there is neither wealth nor want, a primitive simplicity of life and manner, perfect equality in rank and station, and perfect content. They have happily been preserved from establishing a community of property, which would indeed be a complete bar to civilisation. Add to this, that their practical morality and strong sense of religion promise a lasting continuance of the blessings they enjoy, together with another pleasurable emotion—warm loyalty to their queen and attachment to the mother country; their only anxiety being the smallness of their island. At sunset we got on board the barque Colonist, when we found that some of the passengers had just gone on shore, and would not be on board again until morning, so I made myself as comfortable for the night as circumstances would admit of.