The following communications will bring down the history to the period at which the removal from Pitcairn had been determined on.
The Rev. G. H. Nobbs, in a letter to the author, dated June 29th, 1855, said:—
"I sit down to write you a letter: but when an opportunity may occur for sending it, is beyond any calculation of mine; it has become so rare for a vessel of any kind to visit us. Whale-ships do not come, because they rarely can obtain such an amount of vegetable refreshment as they require; and merchant-ships have nothing to induce them in the way of commerce. A ship-of-war will, no doubt, occasionally pay us a flying visit of twenty-four hours; but those much desired gala days must necessarily be few, and very far between; especially if war continues the order of the day. I do not make these remarks from a querulous or discontented state of mind: but I do so in order that you, my most patient and untiring friend, may not suppose that negligence or carelessness is the cause of my writing so seldom.
"And now I have to record a dispensation it has pleased Almighty God to visit on myself and family. I do not call it an afflictive dispensation; for although in the bereavement many of my earthly anticipations were prostrated, still I am most graciously permitted to sing of mercy and judgment
"Last December my two sons, Reuben and Francis, who had gone to Valparaiso in the Dido, returned hither; the eldest, Reuben, far gone in pulmonary consumption; and the other lad betrayed incipient indications of the same disease. Their many friends in Valparaiso advised their return, as the only means (humanly speaking) of restoring Francis to health, and arresting, for a short time, the fatal malady which was rapidly bearing poor Reuben to the grave. They accordingly left Valparaiso in a French ship bound to Tahiti, and remained there two months without being able to obtain a passage home: but they were efficiently cared for by some good Samaritans residing there; still Reuben kept declining, and fears were entertained that he would never see Pitcairn's again. At length, when all hopes began to give way, an opportunity unexpectedly offered. An American ship from California, ostensibly bound on a pleasure trip, arrived at Tahiti; when the owner of the vessel, in conjunction with the gentleman who professed to have chartered her, on hearing of the situation and desires of my children, promptly offered to convey them hither. They were accordingly received on board, and, after a lengthened passage of twenty-two days, arrived here. During the passage they were treated with the greatest kindness and sympathy by these gentlemen, and several other passengers, among whom was a lady, the wife of the principal personage on board; and she, too, was most indefatigable in her motherly attentions to my poor boy. Before they left us (after a sojourn of two days) they sent on shore from their cabin-stores a very large quantity of such things as would be serviceable to Reuben, and moreover refused payment in any shape for the passage but the thanks of gratitude; and these were most heartily accorded them by the whole community,
"My poor boy sunk rapidly after his return. I saw from the first there was no probability of his recovery; but this stroke of domestic affliction was mercifully divested of much of its severity on finding that he was perfectly aware of his situation, and not only resigned to it, but anxiously desirous to depart, and enter into the joy of his Lord. Sometimes his dear mother, flattered by the specious appearance of his insidious disease, would hint at the possibility of his being yet spared to us. But with a gentle shake of the head he would reply, 'No, dear mother, I feel I am rapidly approaching the grave; humanly speaking, my recovery is impossible; and that my dear father knows as well as I do; and if it is not improper to entertain such a wish, I would rather not return to health again. My earnest desire and prayer is to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.' Such was the tenor of his discourse during the short time he was spared us; and he died 'strong In faith, giving glory to God.' An hour before his death he was seized with a violent spasm, which we thought would have carried him off; but he rallied again. Seeing his mother weeping, he said, 'Do not weep, mother; one more such stroke, and T shall be in the arms of my Saviour.' Shortly after, he had another attack, and nothing remained but his attenuated form. Mar 2, 1855 The happy spirit had returned to join the glorified throng. He died on Friday afternoon, March 2d, at six o'clock. The Sunday before his death I administered to him the Holy Eucharist. There were eight of us present; and it was a time of refreshing: so awfully sublime did it appear to us all, that we felt as if we were indeed where Jacob felt himself to be, on his awakening at Luz. Most grateful did I feel that I was invested with full authority to dispense this most precious rite; that I could stand by the bed of my dying child, and offer him the symbols of a dying Saviour's love, and declare the remission of sins through faith in His all-sufficient atonement. I repeat, I felt most grateful to those who, under God were, instrumental in conferring upon me clerical ordination; and I am sure a full share of that gratitude was reflected towards yourself, my well beloved and respected friend.
"The remains of my beloved child are deposited with their kindred dust, the first-fruits of a family of eleven children. And should it please my heavenly Father to call the survivors from time into eternity, and they were graciously permitted to witness as good a confession as their departed brother did, I humbly believe I could bow with submission to the righteous mandate, and say, 'It is well.'
"To that phase of the consistent professor's life, 'the chamber where the good man meets his fate,['] I can revert with unmingled satisfaction. It has been my privilege to attend the bed of sickness among this community for twenty-seven years, and I have frequently had the unspeakable happiness to listen to the testimony of the dying believer; to see death so robbed of its sting, that the soul, before quitting its frail tenement, seemed invested with an antepast of heaven. Such manifestations can by no means be construed into mental hallucinations, or transient feelings of excited gratitude. For not to recur to the happy state of mind in which many of our immortals have entered the 'dark valley,' here (I refer to my deceased child) was a young man prostrated in the prime of his days, and for many weeks standing on the brink of eternity, with a full and solemn view of his state deeply impressed on his mind, both from his own feelings and the conversation of his sorrowing but happy friends: yet he could, amidst the ravages and exhaustion of pulmonary consumption, so entirely resign himself to the providential dispensations of his heavenly Father, as to make the exemplary words of his suffering and acquiescent Saviour the frequent and earnest theme of his aspirations,—'Not my will, but Thine be done.' Were not these sweet words for an earthly parent to listen to? I found them unspeakably so. Such unwavering confidence, with eternity in view, strengthens me amidst this temporal bereavement to exclaim, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me bless his holy name.'
"Three weeks after the demise of my son, death made another inroad among us. A little boy, ten years of age, son of my wife's sister, Maria Quintal, pierced his foot with a barbed arrow (used for taking fish from the holes of the rocks) , which induced tetanus; and in forty-eight hours after the terrible disease had commenced, his happy spirit fled to the realms of bliss. During the intervals of the violent spasmodic constrictions of the suffering body, the dear child would speak of his blessed Saviour, and ask Him to take him to be with those whom He took in his arms when on earth. The patient sufferer was aware that he could not recover: still he never expressed the least fear of death. At the time of his departure, I was praying with him, his parents and several other persons kneeling around his bed, when he gave a slight shudder, and exclaimed in a clear and audible voice, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!' And then went to see Him as He is.
"But one fortnight had elapsed from this period, when another sad and awful bereavement fell upon the community. Daniel M'Coy and his wife went to the north-west side of the island in quest of fish. After descending to the rocks, Daniel left his wife, and re-ascended, with the intention of passing the head of a small inlet of the sea, and then going down to the rocks on the other side. While doing so, he fell; and his wife saw him fall, but there was the before-mentioned inlet between them, into which a very heavy surf was running; to avoid which Daniel had gone round the head of the bight; and it was in the act of descending to the shore, on the other side, that he fell. His wife without hesitation plunged into the heavy surf (which she had unfortunately persuaded her husband to avoid), and, landing on the opposite side of the inlet, found him on the rugged lava of the shore, a corpse! She had the presence of mind, previous to her braving the foam-crested billows, to call a lad at some distance fishing, and despatch him to the village with the sad tidings that Daniel had fallen; but she did not then know the extent of his hurt. Less than half an hour previous, he had left her with a smile on his countenance, for Daniel was always in a cheerful mood. What must have been the poor creature's agony as she sat by her dead husband, with his head resting in her lap, for more than an hour ere any one could get to her assistance! Her feelings I will not attempt to describe; but I will tell you what she did. On finding life extinct, she knelt down, and prayed that God would give her grace so to live that she might rejoin her dear Daniel in heaven. 'For I am sure,' said she, when speaking to me on the subject, 'that he was prepared for death; and that takes away the pain of my great loss.'
"I was in bed at the time of the accident, suffering from bronchitis, when a long low wail reached my ear, accompanied by exclamations of grief. Jumping from my bed, I ran out of doors, forgetting that I was or had been sick; and, on inquiring what was the matter, learned that Daniel M'Coy was badly hurt, if not killed, by falling from the precipice. Most of the men were out in their canoes fishing, it being Saturday; the two or three that were at home hastened to the spot, and several of the women followed, among whom was my wife. Now, as they would have to go the same route by which the deceased fell, I was in great fear lest a similar accident might befall Mrs. Nobbs; and a heavy load was removed when I saw her return in safety. She had not got so far as the dangerous part of the road, when she met one of the men returning, who informed her that poor Daniel was dead. A canoe was sent to summon home the fishermen; and the whale-boat was manned, and taken to the spot where the corpse lay; when with some difficulty and danger, on account of the heavy surf, it was put into the boat and brought round to Bounty Bay; then transferred to a canoe for a bier, and borne on men's shoulders to the village. I had been busy preparing bandages, and such other things as might be necessary, and placed them in the house to which I supposed he would be brought; but the sad tidings of his death rendered all my intentions useless. However, busying myself about these things kept me in a great measure from the painful impressions induced by suspense, and fretting myself about the safety of my dear wife. But a chapter from the Bible, and a few words of prayer, I found to be the panacea. At length the women returned; and my wife and eldest daughter (who, though I did not know it, had gone) with them; and I was truly thankful.
"A messenger now came from Bounty Bay, summoning me thither; as the sister and brother of the deceased were both attacked with spasmodic fits. Taking some remedies, I started, but met them on their way home. Poor Lydia M'Coy came home in the whale-boat with the corpse. On examining the injuries, I found the spine broken at the bend of the shoulders, and the occiput badly fractured; but there were no other bones broken that I could ascertain.
"Such, and so sudden, was the death of Daniel M'Coy; a young man beloved by all the community, and most deservedly so. He is the third of the family who has met an untimely end within a very lew years. William M'Coy died from lock-jaw, occasioned by a splinter of wood running into the upper part of his foot; Matthew M'Coy, from wounds received by the accidental explosion of the Bounty's gun; and now the third brother, Daniel, by falling from a precipice on the north-western side of the island. May the God of the widow support poor Lydia under the awful calamity! She has no children to rest her affections upon, but she has a mother, and brothers, and sisters, and she has the sympathy of the whole community. On Him, who, above all others, well deserves the name of Friend, may she place her unwavering trust: to Him let her flee as a very present Help in time of trouble; and all will be well, both for time and eternity.
"There have been three other deaths since the above accident: one was a premature birth, the child surviving but a few hours; the other two were infants under twelve months. The number of deaths on the island this year has been six; a larger amount than has occurred in any one year since our unfortunate visit to Tahiti. Up to the present date the deaths exceed the births.
"We are most grateful that so large a sum as 500l. sterling has been secured for our future benefit. I do not think there will be a necessity for drawing any portion of it for the next two years, if we should remain here so long. If there should be a removal to Norfolk Island, that may alter the case. The next time you favour me with a letter, I want your opinion as to what I ought to do, if some families remain here, in preference to removing to Norfolk Island, whenever an opportunity is offered them. I have no choice on the subject. I have mentioned it to my Diocesan, the Lord Bishop of London, in my former letter; but I should like to have your advice also. I think it probable some families will remain, and I have no objection to remain with them; but I hold myself in readiness to go if desired to do so.
"In all the vicissitudes through which I have passed,—whether on the Galapagos Islands, almost perishing from thirst, or labouring in chains among malefactors of the deepest dye, on the batteries of Callao; or waiting, with some anxiety, my turn to be the subject of a fusillade, for the amusement of Benevideis in Arauco, I have never regretted, nor desired to abandon, the course prescribed. And now, having been involuntarily drawn from my retirement, invested with sacerdotal authority, and placed, as it were, on a pedestal, I shall endeavour, by Divine aid, to lead this unique community, step by step, to that 'rest which remaineth for the people of God.' And may you, my friend, be spared many years to chronicle the result."
Accounts of the war with Russia, and the agitating scenes which ensued, had reached the quiet islanders, and had formed a theme of serious interest in their despatches. The startling and solemn event by which, under divine Providence, the Crimean conflict was stayed, is glanced at in the following postscript:
"P.S. September 14, 1855. I have just five minutes to say that we are all well, and that I forward this by a whale-ship going to Juan Fernandez* I have no chance to send your desk. But the first ship-of-war that comes will take it.
"We learn from this ship the death of the Czar! But there is not a newspaper on board, so we are still in the dark."
∗ For a view of this island, see Dido Visit