DURING all this time where were Christian and the other guilty men who followed him? After having set the boat containing Bligh and his companions adrift, Fletcher Christian assumed command of the Bounty, and returned toward Tahiti. The ship was taken first to Toobouai, the intention of the men being to settle there; but, finding the place destitute of animals, they went to Tahiti to procure a stock of pigs and goats. Obtaining what they needed, they returned again to Toobouai, but found the natives hostile to their landing. Once more, and for the third and last time, the Bounty was brought to Tahiti, where she was anchored in Matavai Bay, on the 20th of September, 1789. Sixteen of the crew here landed, taking with them their share of the arms and other articles on board the Bounty. These were the men, it will be understood, who were discovered and taken away by the Pandora, as related in the previous chapter.
Leaving at Tahiti that portion of the crew whose choice it was to remain, Christian, accompanied by eight of his shipmates who decided to cast in their lot with him, sailed away from Tahiti forever. But this number was not all, for six of the native men, and ten women, and a girl of fifteen, were taken on board as wives and servants, the sailors having determined to seek some place where they could live secure from the danger of discovery. It is said that Christian, having seen an account of the discovery of a lone island in the Pacific Ocean, by Captain Cartaret, in the year 1767, directed the course of the ship to that place. It was named Pitcairn Island, after the young man who descried it, he being, as the story goes, a son of the Major Pitcairn who fell in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
On the twenty-third day of January, 1790, the Bounty reached her destination. The island, though small, being about five miles in circumference, and scarcely more than two miles across at its widest point, was thickly covered with a luxuriant growth of trees.
On coming near enough for a boat to venture, a small party went on shore to search the land. They effected a landing on the west side of the island, but, finding that a few yards from the sea the rocks rose perpendicularly to a forbidding height, and thinking to find a more convenient place for a settlement, they brought the ship round to the northeast side of the island. Here they managed to bring their boat safely to the shore, through perilous rocks and breakers. It did not take long to discover that the island had been, and perhaps still was, inhabited, and fears were entertained lest they should be attacked by hostile natives. Traces of former habitations,—marais, stone images, rude pictures cut in the rocks, stone hatchets, etc., etc.,—were evident proof that human beings had once lived on the island, and in addition to these, several human skulls and other bones were afterward seen.
As day after day passed, and no one appeared to molest them, the mutineers began to feel more secure and safe, and preparations were made for a permanent settlement. Their supply of water, though not abundant, was sufficient for their requirements, and the plants brought with them from Tahiti would, in due course of time, be able to supply their every want. But, first, all trace of the ship must be destroyed. She was driven near enough to the shore to allow of her being fastened to a tree by means of a rope. Everything that could be of service to the settlers was removed. For greater safety, one little child was brought ashore in a barrel, as the landing place for boats was very dangerous. When all had been removed from the ship, she was set on fire, and destroyed.
There were those among the mutineers, if not all, who were grieved that they should be obliged to destroy the vessel that had been their home so long. Especially was it so with John Mills, if his daughter's testimony is correct, for she never wearied of telling how her father sorrowed over the destruction of the Bounty, as it was his hope one day to return in her to England, even at the risk of his life. These fugitives from justice spent the early days of their settlement on Pitcairn Island in caves, and tents made of canvas, while their cottages were being built. Here, on this solitary, uninhabited spot, Christian could, at least, hope to hide himself and his guilty associates from the extreme penalty of the law.
But no degree of outward security could bring peace to a mind constantly disturbed with self-accusing thoughts, or still the reproaches of a conscience burdened with guilt and remorse. Poor, misguided men! Utterly isolated from the rest of the world, their only means of communication destroyed, their condition was forlorn in the extreme. In their outward circumstances they were tolerably comfortable, as they had brought with them enough of the necessities of life to sustain them until the land could be made to produce fresh supplies. Such clothing as they possessed would have to be carefully kept, and as regarded the native men and women, the simplest covering sufficed for them. The land was shared out among the Englishmen, their native servants helping them to cultivate the ground. Salt was obtained from the small, shallow pools in the rocks, and these rocks were also shared among them.
For two years a fair degree of prosperity blessed their efforts, but the comparative peace and success they enjoyed could not be expected to continue. The first real trouble and disturbance was caused by one of the mutineers named Williams. His wife had gone out one day among the cliffs to search for sea birds and eggs. While so doing, she fell and was killed. Williams, wanting another woman, demanded and obtained the wife of one of the native men. Wronged and outraged by this scandalous act, the native men vowed to be revenged on the Englishmen, and a plot was formed to murder them all. The secret being made known to the women, they imparted it to the Englishmen, in a song as follows
"Why does black man sharpen ax?
To kill white man."
And now begins a story of oppression, treachery, and bloodshed, that forms the darkest page in this island's history. So constant was the dread experienced by some of the women, that they contrived, in secret, to construct a rude raft, with the intention of returning to Tahiti, or be lost in the attempt. They had their raft launched, and ventured a little way beyond the breakers; but their hearts failed them, and the entreaties of some of the women left behind, who had found out their intention, prevailing, they returned to shore again. Hostile feelings were strong on both sides. The women, however, sided entirely with the Englishmen. In one instance one of the women deliberately murdered her native husband, when they were alone together in a cave where they lived.*
∗ It is to this that Mr. Nobbs referred when, many years later, in his song entitled "Pitcairn," he speaks of the "ghost that still lingers on Tullaloo's Ridge." Tullaloo was the man's name.
When some degree of peace had been restored, and the suspicions of their masters were quieted, the wronged and oppressed Tahitians, obtaining possession of arms, fell upon the white men while they were quietly working on their allotments of land, and hunted and shot them down. Fletcher Christian, John Mills, Isaac Martin, William Brown, and John Williams were killed. William McCoy and Matthew Quintall escaped into the woods, while John Adams, having at first escaped into the woods, on again showing himself, was shot and severely wounded. Recovering himself, he ran away from his pursuers, and, making for the rocky cliffs, would have thrown himself off, but those in pursuit, by sundry signs, showed that they intended no further harm. Being thus reassured of his safety, he returned with them to one of the houses, where he was kindly treated. Edward Young, a favorite with the women, had been concealed by them, and so escaped the dangers to which the others had been exposed. Thus were the lives of four among the nine mutineers spared. But peace was not yet to be. How was it possible, when the men and women that remained practiced freely every vice that could degrade manhood and womanhood. Treachery and bloodshed still raged among them, and no one felt his life secure.
A story is told of how the death of one of the native men was accomplished. It was before anyone had been killed. The man, called by the name of Timiti, had been accused of some wrongdoing, and was brought before the Englishmen to be tried. Christian, so the story goes, was, while trying the case, walking backward and forward through the midst of the assembled company met to see the result of the trial. Timiti, learning only too well that his sentence would be death, took the opportunity when Christian was in the act of turning himself around, to make a spring for the open door. Before his judges could recover from their surprise, he was too far on his way to be readily overtaken, and his pursuers were obliged to return without him. Taking a short cut down towards the sea, he speedily descended the steep cliffs, and ran across the rocky shore. Swimming across places where no footpath could be found, and walking the rest of the way, he at length reached a place on the south side of the island known by the name of Taowtama. Here he succeeded in hiding himself for a while, until someone descried him from the heights above, engaged in a favorite pastime, called ihara (pronounced e-hurra).
The news soon spread that Timiti's hiding place was discovered, and another native, named Menalee, was sent out to secure him. One of his companions also went with him, and before long they were at the place. Timiti, suspecting treachery, would have fled, but the two men, through their fair speeches and the food they had brought him, quickly disarmed him of his comb, and prevailed on him to let them comb his hair. Having thus decoyed him into their power, the rest was easy enough, and a few seconds sufficed to dispatch the poor fellow.
After the massacre of Christian and his companions the native men turned upon one another, and the four remaining Englishmen, assisted by the widows of the murdered white men, joined in ridding the island of these "disturbers of the peace," so that in a short time after the mutineers had been killed every one of the native men was also put to death.
During the occurrence of these shocking scenes, how must every human impulse and every kindly feeling have been nearly extinguished! To add to the dreadful evils that were committed, McCoy, who had been brought up in a distillery, spent much of his time in distilling ardent spirits from the roots of the tee plant. Quintall assisted him, his "teakettle being converted into a still." These two men succeeded but too well. Drunkenness was added to the already long list of vices, and was of frequent occurrence. In McCoy's case it brought its own punishment, for in an attack of delirium he made his way to the rocky shore, and, fastening a stone around his body, cast himself off into the sea. The dead body was found by a little girl, a daughter of John Adams, and was brought up to the little settlement and buried,
Quintall, McCoy's boon companion, met his death at the hands of his two remaining shipmates. Always disorderly and troublesome, provoking a quarrel whenever he could, and frequently threatening the lives of Young and Adams, he became a constant terror to them. As an instance of his ferocious nature, the story is handed down that one day his wife went out fishing, and, not succeeding in obtaining enough to satisfy Quintall, he punished her by biting off her ear.* Like Williams, he also lost his wife, and in the same way, she having fallen from the rocks when going after birds. Regardless of the fearful consequences which so quickly followed a crime of the same nature only a short time before, Quintall demanded the wife of one of his two remaining companions. Their refusal to comply with his demands determined him to try to put his oft-repeated threats into execution. Adams and Young, knowing their lives to be in danger, felt themselves justified in putting an end to Quintall's life.
The opportunity soon came, and one day when he was in John Adams' house, he was set upon and overpowered by the two other men. By means of a hatchet the dreadful work of death was soon completed. The daughter of John Mills (who lived to the age of ninety-three), then a young girl of eight or nine years of age, was an eyewitness of the awful deed, and used to relate how terrified were all of the little band of women and children who beheld the blood bespattered walls. The dreadful scene was vividly pictured on her mind and memory through the long course of more than eighty years.