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Chapter XI Together Again

BEFORE the panting girl reached the beach the Bounty was at anchor and her deck crowded with natives, who greeted Christian and the ship's company with the most extravagant manifestations of joy. For him personally they had always shown the liveliest regard; not only was he one of Tuti's people, but his uniform kindness to them had won their hearts, and, indeed, Bligh himself was the only one of the Bounty's company whom they feared more than they loved.

Tinā himself was among the first to board the ship, and his frank, ingenuous countenance betrayed his astonishment at the return of his friends, while his wondering, inquiring glance as his eye roved over the group of officers on the poop-deck showed that he was quick to discover the absence of Bligh.

Ia oro na oe, Kirisiani,”note he said with a smile, advancing to Christian, “and where is the chief Pirai? And why hath the ship come back so soon?

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Hast thou already been to Peretane and returned in three moons?”

Fletcher Christian was quick with his answer. “Nay, Tinā, friend of my heart, we have been fortunate. See, when we neared the island that is called Tonganote we there met the great chief, he whom you call Tuti.note He took on board his ship our chief Pirai and many others of our people and all the presents of breadfruit trees for our king. And then said he to me, ‘Go thou back, Kirisiani, to the country of Tinā, my friend, and say these words to him, “I, Tuti, his friend, need yams and pigs and other food; my people are many and I cannot feed them all, for the sea is wide between here and Britain.’ And for these things have I returned to Tahiti, while Tuti awaits me at Tonga. And for a gift he hath sent thee by me much iron, for he knoweth that iron is needed by thy people.”

Tinā smiled pleasantly and expressed his earnest desire to serve both Cook and Bligh; and he and many minor chiefs who had flocked on board greeted every one of the mutineers as old and dear friends.

For some minutes great excitement and confusion prevailed, and in the midst of the pleasant clamour a small canoe, paddled by two young women, ran

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alongside the ship, and Mahina sprang up the ladder on deck, and with a soft, joyous cry threw herself into Christian's arms.

“Thou hast returned, my own,” she murmured. “Oro hath heard my prayers, and thy heart is still mine.”

An angry flush for a moment suffused Christian's cheek at this demonstration before the whole ship's company, and drawing her aside he rebuked her.

“Mahina,” he said severely, “in my country it is only the base and lower sort who show their hearts in this way before all men.”

The girl trembled, but quickly recovered herself, and her dark eyes flashed. Drawing back from her lover she spoke in such tones of wounded pride that Christian felt his cheeks burn with shame.

“Truly, I had forgotten that the blood of the white man is cold,” then placing her hands on her eyes, she walked away, and the hot tears trickled through her fingers.

Few as were her words, they touched him. He remembered that since he had parted from this girl two months before the whole of his life had been changed. Her passionate devotion to him during the five months the Bounty first remained at Tahiti was the one bright spot which then had made life endurable, and now, her faithful heart bursting with love for him, he had met her tender embraces with what to her was cold brutality. “She alone is the only soul on earth who will love me to the end,” he thought bitterly; “she alone will not shrink from contact with me,

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in the time to come.” He followed and took her hand.

“Mahina,” he whispered, “forgive me, for thou knowest that for thy sake I have thrown away for ever my country and kindred. Thou art the one woman dear to me in the world, and thy life is my life.”

She flung her arms round his neck and, caring not for those who stood about on the Bounty's deck, kissed him again and again in all the abandonment of her fondness.

Whispering that she might wait for him in the cabin, he gently disengaged her arms, and turned away to look for Tinā.

That night every one of the mutineers, except their chief and Smith, went ashore to their native friends; and as the sound of their singing and dancing floated across the bay to the ship, Mahina, in the cabin of the Bounty, lifted her eyes to Christian's and contentedly laid her head upon his breast.

The Bounty was once more ready for sea. Great numbers of hogs, goats, and fowls were cheerfully given by the islanders to Christian and his companions, and, for a small parcel of some red feathers—which were highly prized by the natives — Tinā presented them with a cow and bull which had been left on the island by Captain Cook. Water, wood, mahi (baked fermented breadfruit), yams, coconuts and breadfruit were also put on board in profusion.

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After making a careful survey of the ship and listening to various suggestions made by the crew for her repair, the leader of the mutineers went ashore for the last time before his marriage, which was to take place on the following day.

Accompanied by Smith, the young man, after landing and pushing through the crowd of natives who had gathered on the beach and sought to detain him in friendly converse, made his way to a native house of considerable size and handsome construction.

Here Heywood and Stewart were living. The latter had renewed his former tender relations with Nuia, who, the moment Christian entered, met him with a bright smile of welcome.

Then she went for Stewart and Heywood, who were lying on the village lawn under the shade of a breadfruit tree. Christian had permitted the two young officers to leave the ship on the day after her arrival, principally because of the passionate entreaties of Nuia, who imagined he was her lover's enemy and would kill him for some neglect of duty, and secondly because he had induced both not to reveal the true cause of his return to the islanders, so long as the Bounty remained at Tahiti. As for the natives themselves, although they had begun to suspect that all things were not quite as the mutineers represented them, yet they believed that Cook had good reasons for sending the ship back to Tahiti; and that he had done so they never for a moment doubted. So Tinā and his people were pleased enough when

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Christian proposed that some of them should sail away in the Bounty and visit Peretane and King George. To further the deception, Christian stated that he had no objection to some of his own men, who had allied themselves to native women, remaining behind at Tahiti. This proposal was made to account for the fact that besides Heywood and Stewart several of the crew had determined to sever themselves from the ship's company; not for the same reasons which animated the two midshipmen, but because the women with whom they were living did not care to venture to sea in the “great outriggerless canoe.”

In a few minutes Heywood and Stewart entered the house.

Both of them looked cheerful and well, and Christian could not help feeling pleased at the friendly manner in which they returned his greeting.

“I have come to see you, perhaps for the last time,” he said, “and to thank you for the manner in which you have kept your promise to a broken and disgraced man. Heaven knows, my lads, that I would gladly assist you to return to England if it were in my power. But have no fear; that a ship will be sent out here is an absolute certainty.”

Heywood ventured to question him as to when he intended sailing.

“Do not ask me,” he replied hurriedly, while the hot blood mounted to his forehead; “it may be soon, it may not be for a week, but I cannot come and see you again … and I want you to shake hands with me before I go.”

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After a momentary hesitation Stewart held out his hand, but young Heywood, whose eyes were filled with tears, with boyish impulsiveness sprang forward before his companion.

“Goodbye, sir; I will never forget how good you have always been to me on the Bounty.”

Christian took their hands in his and wrung them. “Goodbye, my lads. God bless you both, and forgive me all the harm I may have done you.”

Then he turned away, and with Smith closely following him, was soon lost to sight.

Soon after dawn the village was astir with the preparations for Christian's marriage.

Troops of natives carrying presents of food and other articles kept constantly arriving from all parts of the coast, and the first to welcome them and instruct them where to place their gifts was old Manuhuru, Mahina's mother. She was quick to recognise, as soon as Christian returned the possessor of so many riches, the advisability of withdrawing all further opposition to her daughter's marriage with the young Englishman; for with all her hatred of the white men she was very avaricious.

Only that morning she had bidden Pipiri give up all hope of her child now that Christian had returned; and the young warrior-priest, with savage hatred in his heart, had cursed her and sworn yet to possess her daughter if fifty white men stood in his way.

As Mahina was connected through her parents with the reigning family of Tahiti, the marriage ceremony was to be performed in the marae or temple of Oro

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instead of in the family marae, and thither went all the people to witness the event.

Mahina, sitting on a mat, was surrounded by a number of young girls who had arrayed her in her wedding garments; at a sign from the officiating priest of Oro she rose and advanced to meet her white lover, who, attended by Alexander Smith and a number of young natives of strikingly handsome appearance, was now walking across the grassy sward towards her, his plain uniform contrasting strangely with the wild, yet picturesque, garb of his island friends, most of whom had their hair profusely decorated with wreaths of white and scarlet blossoms. Round each man's waist was a girdle composed of scarlet leaves of the ti plant, and bright yellow strips of the plantain leaf. Upon each wrist and ankle were circlets of pieces of pearl shell fitted into an embroidered net work of red and black cinnet; the islanders' light brown skins shone with the scented oil with which they had anointed themselves, and the beautiful curved lines or deep blue tattooing with which their bodies were so freely covered stood out with such startling distinctness that even Smith, the most tattooed man of all the Bounty's crew, could not help uttering a cry or admiration.

When about fifty reet distant from each other, the two parties stopped, and a pretty little maiden, carrying in her hand a ripe plantain and a young drinking coconut, advanced out from among the women surrounding Mahina, and addressed the young native chief who led Christian's party—

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“Who are ye that come here so gaily clad, and why do ye come?”

“I, Kirisiani, come to the altar of Oro so that I may take for my wife Mahina, daughter of Manuhuru,” replied the mutineer, taking the plantain and coconut from her and giving her a piece of stained native cloth in return.

The child returned to her party, who began to chant some verses in praise of the beauty of Mahina; then the ranks opened out, and Christian, prompted by a chief, stepped to her side.

Together they slowly walked to the marae, where they seated themselves upon mats, Christian at one end of the temple, Mahina at the other, while the people disposed themselves round the sacred edifice in silence.

The leafy screen in front of one of the sacred dormitories opened; Harere, the priest, clothed in the vestments of his sacred office, stepped forward, and, spreading a small square of white tappa cloth in the centre of the temple, bade Mahina and the white man seat themselves upon it. Then, standing directly in front of Christian, he said, in a loud voice, “Kirisiani, taata Peretane, eita anei oe e faa 'rue i ta oe vahine?” (“Christian, the Englishman, wilt thou not cast away this woman?”) to which the mutineer replied “Eita” (“No”). The same question was put to Mahina, and the girl, with a happy smile lighting up her lovely face, and her little hand pressing her lover's, quickly gave the same answer.

“Fortunate then may your lives be if thus ye

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remain true one to another,” said Harere. Then stepping back from them and facing the sacred altar of Oro, the priest prayed to the god that the Englishman and his wife might live together in affection, that male children might be given to them in the earlier years of their married life, that they might not “hunger nor thirst, nor see blood shed within their house.”

Then old Manuhuru stepped into the sacred enclosure, bearing in her hands a heavy piece of ahu vavau, or tappa cloth, which she spread out upon the stone floor of the temple; and Harere the priest bade the lovers sit upon it and hold each other by the hand while he again addressed them.

“Hearken, Englishman. It is the custom of this land for the man and the woman who marry before Oro and sit as thou and this woman sit now, to place before them the skulls of their ancestors, whose spirits, entering into the dead bones, will hear the vows that ye have made one to the other. But thou, Kirisiani, art from a far-off country, and it is not the custom of thy people to carry about with them on the sea the skulls of their forefathers. And the mother of thy wife, though now as we are, Tahitian, is, like thee, of strange blood—her mother's people came from a distant land which sprang from out the sea, and neither hath she a skull to place before thee. And for this does Manuhuru now make a sacrifice before Oro.”

He handed to Mahina's mother a large shark's tooth with the base embedded in a piece of polished wood.

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Advancing to Christian, the old woman seized his right arm and made a small cut with the sharp point of the tooth upon the palm of his hand, then did the same upon the hand of her daughter. As the blood flowed and dripped down she caught it upon a piece of cloth with her left hand, and with her right she thrust the keen-edged tooth into her own breast, brow, and left shoulder, over and over again.

“See, white man,” she croaked. “Once I hated thee and all white men, but now thy blood and mine and my daughter's have mixed. And if thy blood is as good as mine—for I am of Afitā—then does this mingling of it with mine render thee equal to Mahina; and, moreover, the mixing of blood shall bind thee closer to thy wife.”

Scarcely able to conceal his disgust at the frightful spectacle the old woman presented, with her face and shoulders streaming with blood, Christian was glad to submit to the concluding part of the ceremony, which was the brief suspension over the heads of the married pair of a large piece of cloth called te tapoi.

Leaving the temple Christian and his bride were escorted to a new house specially prepared for them in which to receive their presents, and the young man could not but be touched at the people's expression of their kindly feeling towards him, and the overwhelming display of their generosity.

The rest of the day was spent in the wildest enjoyment and sumptuous feasting; then when darkness descended upon the scene the women and girls sang and danced, and a band of Areois delighted the people

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by their wild pantomimic exhibitions far into the night.

But in the midst of the merry clamour Mahina, without bidding her aged mother farewell, stole quietly away to the ship to await her husband, who had gone to take leave of Tinā. As she paddled off alone in a tiny canoe, the tall, stalwart figure of Pipiri the Areoi appeared on the beach. For a few seconds he watched her as she disappeared in the darkness. Then he plunged into the water and swam noiselessly in the same direction.

Long before daylight next morning Mahina awoke and found that her husband was gone from her side. A wild look of fear for a moment blanched her olive cheek; then a smile parted her lips as she heard his voice on deck.

“Man the capstan, lads.”

She ran on deck and found the ship crowded with natives, among whom were Tinā and his noble wife, who wept when Christian bade them farewell. To King George the chief sent many messages, for he firmly believed that the Bounty was on her way to England.

Amid the sounds of weeping and the sighing of tender farewells the anchor came in sight, the ship's head swung round, and the Bounty was again under way.

Once outside the white line of foaming surge which thundered on the reef, Edward Young, who had been securing the anchor, came quietly aft and stood beside his wife Alrema, who, with Mahina and other women,

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was on the poop. Presently, as Christian passed, Young caught him by the arm.

“I didn't like to disturb you last night, and so acted on my own responsibility. Stewart and Heywood came on board and announced their determination to sail with us if you would permit them.”

Fletcher Christian's face darkened. “Stewart and Heywood! What does this mean?”

“Treachery,” answered Young, “and I determined to meet treachery with deceit. I told them that I was certain you would never consent to their coming on board again, but that if they liked to stow themselves away till we got out to sea I would not say anything about it, but let them discuss the matter with you afterwards.”

“Are you mad, Young, to do this?”

The sallow-faced midshipman laughed. “Not a bit of it. They might do us more harm by remaining at Tahiti than they would by coming with us. Stewart has Nuia with him, and although she is as true as steel to the chicken-hearted dog, she has let it out to Alrema that he persuaded Heywood to come on board with him last night.”

“What do you think is his intention?” asked Christian moodily.

“To recapture the ship, and try to sail her to England and get a commission—while we dangle from a yard-arm at Portsmouth.”

“Then why let them come on board?”

“To prevent their giving us trouble in the future.

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There are lots of islands where no ships are ever likely to touch, and we can put them ashore before we reach Tubuai—and be damned to them.”

“To let them perhaps die, with their fate unknown! But there, Young, forgive me. You have done wisely. Let them come on deck, and I will watch them closely till a fitting time arrives for us to rid ourselves of them.”

On board the Bounty were several native women, the wives of Smith, Quintal, and McCoy, and two Tahitian men, brothers of Smith's and Quintal's wives, who had determined to accompany the white men. These Christian was glad to see, as he thought they would prove useful as interpreters.

But an hour later, after his talk with Young, and when the land was twenty miles astern, it was found that many more natives had hidden themselves on board, and that altogether the Bounty's complement had been increased by twelve women, eight boys, and nine men.