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Chapter III White Men and Brown Women

TWO days had passed, and now as the departure of the ship drew near the natives redoubled their kindnesses to the Bounty's people. Christian, with his morbid mind brooding over the scene between himself and his commander, did his duty in a dull, mechanical way and scarce spoke even to Edward Young, the one man to whom his gloomy nature sometimes relaxed. The parting, too, between Mahina and himself had had its effect upon him and he now clearly saw that, untutored savage as she was, she was yet a tender, loving woman whose heart he had cruelly tortured. “But,” he reasoned with himself, “it cannot be helped. She will never see me again, poor child. She will soon cast me out of her memory.”

A mile or two away from where the Bounty rode at anchor, at a little village called Torea, Mahina and Nuia, the handsome sister of Tinā the chief, sat together with their arms clasped round each other's waists. Mahina's eyes were wet with tears, but yet

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there was shining through them the light of radiant happiness.

“See, Nuia, how I have wronged thee! Always, always was my heart wrung by the idle words of those who said that Kirisiani wavered in his love between thee and me.”

Nuia laughed, and her bright, starlike eyes looked honestly into those of her friend.

“It is false. True, I once coveted him; but soon I saw it was for thee alone that he cared. And then it was that Steuanote told me he loved me, and 'tis he alone that I care for now; and gladly will I help thee to keep thy lover, even as do I desire to keep mine. And listen now, while I tell thee how this shall be done.”

Then Nuia told her friend how some of the seamen with whom the women had tender relations had declared for days their intention of deserting to the mountains and there remaining until the Bounty sailed. The women had promised to assist them, even though they knew Tinā would resent the act bitterly. They trusted, however, that after Bligh was gone, the chief's love for his sister would procure their pardon. Only the previous day Nuia and Alrema and two other girls named Ohuna and Ahi, who were devoted to two seamen named Millward and Churchill, had arranged to steal the ship's cutter during the night, land some miles down the coast where they would be met by Nuia and her companions, and make their way over the mountains to Taravao—the peninsula that connects

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the district of Taiarapu with Tahiti. Here they were to conceal themselves till “the wrath of Tinā had ceased.”

“To-night, oh friend of my heart,” said Nuia, placing her cheek against the bare bosom of her friend and embracing her lovingly, “this shall be done. Alrema's lover, Etuāti, who hateth the chief of the ship as bitterly as does thy Kirisiani, to-night again keepeth the watch. He hath taken the hands of these men in his and sworn to turn away his face when they steal the boat; and to-night, perhaps, will my Steua escape from the ship and come to me. Then, one by one, all those of the white men that hate to leave this land of ours will hide away, and the Arii Pirainote will trouble not, for in Taravao it will be hard for him to seek them?”

A fierce light shone in Mahina's eyes. “True, how could he? And yet it would please me better could I see Pirai dead. For ever is he saying bitter words to the man I love.”

Nuia looked at her companion for a moment, then rose, and, going to a corner of the house, reached her hand up to the thatch; then she took down a pistol and gave it to her friend.

“See, this is the little gun that Pirai the captain gave to my brother Tinā. To-night Alrema gives it to her lover, who hath sworn to kill Pirai some day for the foul words he ever gives him, even as he speaks foul words to thy lover.”

Then the two girls separated—Nuia to give the

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pistol into Alrema's hand for Young, and Mahina to watch for her lover, should Christian come ashore in the evening.

At one o'clock next morning Edward Young was again keeping anchor watch. It was dark and rainy and no one else was to be seen on deck but the sentry—John Millward. Presently Young felt a hand on his shoulder, and heard the voice of Churchill, the ship's corporal—“Mr. Young!”

“For heaven's sake be careful, Churchill! Are you all ready?”

“Yes, we've got the second cutter alongside. Muspratt is in her. We've eight muskets and six bags of powder and ball. Five of the muskets and some ammunition will be hidden by Alrema, who will be watching for you to escape. Why don't you come now, sir? There are half a dozen others ready to do so!”

“No, no, not now. I must get away alone. Alrema will let you know when.”

“Goodbye, sir,” whispered Churchill.

The midshipman pressed his hand, and the corporal stepped softly along the deck, till he reached the spot where Millward the sentry stood, peering anxiously out into the gloom which enveloped the ship. A quick gesture from Churchill, and the two figures dropped quietly over the side and were gone.

For some minutes Young looked for the boat through the darkness, as those in her pulled with muffled oars towards the shore.

“That's satisfactory,” muttered the young man to

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himself; “that's something for our amiable and worthy commander to think over at breakfast.”

Lieutenant Bligh did think over it at breakfast; and soon Young was in irons and awaiting a promised flogging for “being asleep on his watch and allowing the damned scoundrels to desert,” as his commander forcibly expressed it.

Four days afterwards, as Christian made his rounds of the ship he came upon Young, still in leg irons, waiting, with deadly hatred in his heart, for Bligh to visit him.

In the bosom of his shirt lay Tinā's pistol, and as the figures of Christian and a seaman darkened the entrance to the stuffy cabin his fingers clutched the weapon savagely.

“They are all taken, Young,” muttered his superior officer; “they gave themselves up to Bligh this morning, and are now on board. I wish with all my heart I could set you free, for Bligh swears he will flog you.”

“And I swear, Christian, that he shall die if he attempts it. My God! are we Englishmen or slaves?”

Christian shook his head gloomingly, and with a pitying look at the young man, went on deck, passing on his way the manacled figures of the three captured men. They lay together in the sail locker, their backs raw and bleeding from the four dozen lashes which they had each received in the morning.

Their dreams of and dash for liberty had been brief. Landing at the spot agreed upon, Nuia and her two friends, Ohuna and Ahi, met them with the warmest demonstrations of affection and loyalty; then

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they learned with alarm that Oripah and Tamiri, two of Tinā's subsidiary chiefs, had forbidden the people in any way to aid or shelter them; and that Tinā himself had bitterly reproached his sister Nuia for her share in the conspiracy—for by some means the whole plan of escape had been made known to him. Then after a hurried discussion the three deserters, accompanied by Ahi and another girl named Tahinia, set out again for Tetuaroa, a group of low-lying coral islands twenty-eight miles from where the Bounty lay. There they hoped to be free from interference; for the chief of the islands, Miti, was related to Tahinia.

But when half-way across a furious squall drove them back to the mainland. Landing at a village called Tetaha the deserters remained hidden till they were surprised by Bligh and a boat's crew; and although they were prepared to fight to the last, the girls, to their surprise, begged them to surrender.

“Milwa,” said Nuia to Millward, the moment they saw Bligh approaching, accompanied by his boat's crew and Tinā, “waste neither these men's blood nor thine. Yield—and I, Nuia, swear that the ship shall not take thee away.”

Relying on the repeated assurances of the girls, who wept in the earnestness of their beseechings, the three deserters came out of the house and stood before Bligh and his party.

“Surrender, you villains!” he cried.

“Aye, aye, sir, we surrender,” answered Churchill; and under his breath he said to his companions—“to be free again before long.”

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When the men were brought on board, Bligh, whose face was livid with passion, turned to Fletcher Christian.

“Muster the hands, Mr. Christian. I'll show you and the others like you whether I will tolerate this spirit of mutiny and disregard of my orders.”

Then in sullen silence the ship's company were mustered on the main deck to witness the flogging of the deserters.

As the bleeding form of Muspratt, the last to be punished, and the greatest sufferer, was led away from the gratings, one of the boatswain's mates named Morrison said to the midshipman Stewart in a low voice: “I'm glad, sir, I wasn't picked on to flog poor Bill Muspratt. My God, sir, how long is this to go on? The men are bordering on mutiny. Last night the captain took away every present of food given to us by the natives and said that it was his, and that every one on the ship, from the master down, was a damned thief.”

Stewart gave him a warning glance as he answered in a whisper: “Don't talk to me, Morrison; if the captain sees you it means the cat.”

Ten minutes later, as Christian was employed in hoisting in the cutter, Bligh's imperious tones were heard asking for him.

“Mr. Christian,” said the captain, walking up to where the master's mate stood, and his voice quivered with rage, “I find that you had the audacity to send a coconut to that scoundrel Young to drink just now. By the Lord, sir, do you want me to send you to join

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him?” And then with a passionate gesture he turned on his heel and again sought his cabin.

The master's mate, with blazing eyes and face white with anger, turned and looked at the seamen who stood around him with their hands on the boat-falls. Not a word escaped his lips, but in their eyes he read their dangerous sympathy.

That night Bligh slept ashore at Tinā's house, and when all but the anchor watch were asleep a canoe glided gently alongside, and Mahina and Alrema stepped on deck and were met by their lovers. Young had secretly been released from his irons by Christian the moment Bligh had left the ship. For some hours the four conversed earnestly together, then just as the first grey streaks of dawn began to pierce the horizon the girls embraced the two men tenderly and went quietly back to their canoe.

Down below, as Christian was replacing the handcuffs on Young's wrists, the midshipman gripped his companion's arm.

“Christian,” he said, “as God is my judge I intend to keep faith with that girl, even if it costs me my life; and you, Christian, are you made of stone? Can you leave Mahina—to lead such a life as we are made to live?”

The master's mate dashed Young's arm aside. “For God's sake, man, don't ask me. My brain is on fire,” and for a minute or two he walked quickly to and fro, seemingly oblivious of the other's presence. Then he stopped suddenly and faced Young with a short, bitter laugh.

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“That all depends on what happens. If Bligh treats me as a man … I will pocket his past insults … and prove a cruel, heartless scoundrel to that poor girl. If he does not …”

He finished the sentence with a gesture of despair, and went on deck.