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Chapter XII The End of Pipiri

SEVEN days later the ship was once more at Tubuai, but the passage had been so rough that most of the live stock were washed overboard, and the natives had to help work the ship. To add to the troubles of the voyage, Mahina and the other women suffered so much from sickness that they were in the last stage of exhaustion when Tubuai was sighted. And Christian, who, from the hour he had plunged into the mutiny had repented it, grew morose and miserable with the bitterness of unavailing regret and the anxieties of his position as leader.

Well it was for him that at this time and in the black days to come, the example of Smith and Young kept alive in the rest of the crew a respect for him; for these two men, by their undeviating loyalty to their leader and their influence for good with their fellow-mutineers, preserved the spirit of obedience to their chief, and thus averted the worst danger that could threaten such a company.

As the ship entered the passage, the Tubuaians,

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instead of attacking the ship as it was feared they would, came off in their canoes in great numbers, and seeing the Tahitians on board, quickly made friends with them. They clambered up the sides of the Bounty, seized the ropes, and helped the sailors to warp the vessel through the reef to a safe anchorage. In a very short time barter was begun; Christian, accompanied by Mahina, went ashore, and with her aid as interpreter he soon negotiated with the chief of the island for a strip of land on which to erect a fort.

But the Tubuaians were less friendly when they found that the white men intended to live among them, and they sought to withdraw from the treaty they had just made.

“We like not the white strangers,” said one of them to Mahina. “How comes it that if, as thou sayest, the white chief is thy husband he remained not with thee in the Big Land?note Why comes he here to seek a home?”

“Foolish man,” answered the wily Mahina haughtily. “Little dost thou know of the customs of these clever white men. They are as wise as the gods, and like not the ways of the people of Tahiti. And the men of Peretane are more like those of Tubuai—they eat and drink and live alike—and for this reason do they desire to remain on Tubuai.”

This compliment, and the gift of a quantity of iron, induced the Tubuaians to offer no further opposition. The ground was to the eastward of the entrance at a place called Avamoa; and here, in

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spite of shoal water and the numberless coral boulders which studded the lagoon, it was determined to bring the Bounty.

The ship was lightened as much as possible—no easy task, for there was but one boat—and after much labour she was brought close up to the site of the proposed fort and moored in six fathoms of water. For two days the work of lightening the ship proceeded steadily, and Christian took part with the others in the task. The Tubuaians lent some assistance; but their habits of pilfering at last brought such an explosion of wrath from the leader of the mutineers that they desisted, and matters again went on smoothly for a time.

It was the custom of Mahina, Alrema, Nuia, and the other Tahitian women to sit about the poop and watch the labours of their white husbands, and listen to the loud, excited cries of the half-naked, fierce-looking Tubuaians as they swarmed about the main deck, examining with intense curiosity the strange fittings of the ship, and arguing vociferously among themselves as to their use.

Late one afternoon, just after the last boat load had left for the site of the fort, and the wild islanders had gone ashore in their canoes, Mahina was standing alone at the stern. Gazing down into the transparent depths of the lagoon and watching the many-hued fish that swam in and out among the branches of the coral forest which covered the bottom, she was startled by a touch upon the shoulder, and turning, she met the face of Pipiri the Areoi, looking at her with intense hatred gleaming from his

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eyes. So changed was he by his sickness on the voyage that she could not recognise him, and, in addition to this (perhaps for the purpose of disguise), he had shaved his head completely, and his once carefully trimmed beard had disappeared.

She uttered a cry of alarm, and in an instant Christian was beside her.

“What is the matter?” he asked.

With terror in her face she pointed to Pipiri and murmured: “ 'Tis Pipiri the Areoi; he hath frightened me.”

Christian looked at the Tahitian and gradually recognised his features, and remembered that the people at Pare and Matavai had told him that if he had not returned the Areoi would have married Mahina.

“How do you come here?” he asked.

“I was hidden in the bowels of the ship,” answered the man, defiantly. He staggered as he spoke, and Christian correctly surmised that some of the seamen had given him rum to drink.

“But why? What good can come of this?”

“That I might be with Mahina—she of whom thou hast robbed me,” he replied savagely.

“Poor fool,” muttered the mutineer in English, adding in Tahitian, “Truly I pity thee, but yet thou art a fool to have hidden thyself in the ship; for now will I make thee work and thou shalt be a bond slave to thy countrymen.”

“Not so,” answered the Areoi proudly. “Have not others of my countrymen come with thee; why,

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then, should I not live in Tubuai as an Areoi and an Aito?” (a warrior).

“I will answer thee, Pipiri the slaughterer, thou cruel and bloody-handed man”—and Mahina faced him. “Thou hast come for no good purpose; and truly we should be foolish to trust thee, save as a slave may be trusted. Do I not know that thou hast sworn to be revenged because I would have none of thee?” Turning to her husband she coutinued, “Send this man away. Let him go live among the Tubuaians, and suffer him not to come near the ship nor our people. I know his bad and cruel heart.”

The Tahitian laughed hoarsely. “Truly, Mahina, thou art a clever woman. I indeed will go and live with the people of Tubuai; but I swear by my gods to return and take my revenge.”

The next instant he sprang over the side, and Christian, in an endeavour to soothe his wife's fears and at her earnest entreaty, gave the order that he was not to be allowed to approach the whites in future.

Parties were now formed to fell timber, the fort was planned, and men under the direction of Edward Young began to dig a moat round the site. The Bounty's armament of four four-pounders and ten swivels was got on shore; the Tahitians who had accompanied the ship took an active part in the work, principally because of the probability of their seeing the guns used in action against the Tubuaians and witnessing the destruction the weapons would accomplish.

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All this labour took some weeks to perform, and during that time it daily became more evident that the people of Tubuai disliked their visitors; indeed, during the last days of unloading the ship and digging the moat two or three skirmishes took place between them and the white men and their Tahitian allies.

Early in September, however, so far had the work of constructing the fort progressed, that most of the people left the ship and took up their quarters therein. The four-pounders and swivels were mounted in such a position as to make Christian perfectly sure that, should the Tubuaians attack the stronghold, they would suffer a disastrous defeat. But while aware that such an attack might be made, he was yet hopeful that ere long they would recognise his desire to live among them in peace. Mahina, day after day, went into the principal town, and strove to impress the head chief, Maouri, that the white men's advent would prove of advantage to his people. Still, though they received the beautiful Tahitian with the greatest courtesy and respect, they were cold and suspicious in their manner. One day, when accompanied by Alrema, she visited the village, they found the whole population assembled in the square, listening to an address by an orator. The moment the two women came in view the orator disappeared, not so quickly but that in him they had recognised Pipiri the Areoi.

“Let us go back,” Mahina said to Young's wife; “mischief is meant to us in the fort; else why should these people gather together to listen to Pipiri, who is the enemy of us all?”

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Fearing that an attack was intended, Christian, as soon as Mahina told him what she had seen, doubled his sentries and kept a careful watch. For two nights they were undisturbed, but on the third, just after darkness had settled on the island, Talalu, a Tahitian sentry on the western face of the fort, called them to arms.

Scarcely had they time to snatch up their weapons and fire a volley, when a large party of the islanders surrounded the fort on three sides and began a determined assault. With wild cries of defiance and in face of a continuous fire of musketry and grape from the swivels, they jumped into the moat and scrambled up on the other side. Scores of them were shot down as they appeared over the bank, for many carried torches made of the spathe of the coconut tree, with which they intended to fire the buildings within by throwing them over the palisade of coconut logs that enclosed it. The light from these torches, slight as it was, showed the assailants so clearly to Christian's garrison, that ere they could form for their second rush McCoy, Quintal and Smith each fired a swivel loaded with grape into the surging mass. Dreadful cries of agony followed, and so terrified were the Tubuaians at the awful effects of the fire that they wavered and were about to retreat. Instantly half a dozen chiefs, waving their spears, sprang to the front; then the attacking party, beating their battle-drums loudly, again advanced to the assault.

Suddenly, as the dark, waving line of Tubuains swept over the undulating ground which lay between

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them and the western face of the fort, a blaze of light lit up the surrounding forest, and Mahina and the other women appeared beside the white men, carrying torches which revealed not only the naked forms of the savages now trying to scale the palisade, but also the dead and wounded who had fallen from the white men's first fire, and who lay on the edge of and in the bottom of the moat. So irresistible, however, was the rush of the assailants, that fifteen or sixteen of them succeeded in clambering over the stockade and jumping down into the fort. Armed with a short stabbing spear in the left and a heavy ebony-wood club in the right hand, these daring fellows made a rush at Christian, McCoy, and Smith, who were firing through the palisade at the swarm of yelling savages outside. Loud warning cries from Mahina and Alrema made Christian turn suddenly, but too late to avoid a vicious thrust from a spear, which passed through his left arm. Then came the report of a pistol close to him—the rush of foemen bore him back to the palisade bruised, stunned, and bleeding, and there he fell exhausted.

Flinging the blazing torches into the centre of the fort, the women with knives and cutlasses in their hands, sprang down from where they stood to help their white husbands; and while some continued to fire at point-blank range into the thick mass of natives outside, the rest of the white men and Tahitians made short work of those within. Soon not one was left alive; the women, at the command of Mahina, seized all their dead bodies, save one, dragged them to the

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top of the palisade and with cries of contempt hurled them over among the assailants.

For nearly ten minutes more the Tubuaians sought to force an entrance through the stout logs, heedless of the fire from the seamen's muskets, which were thrust through the spaces and discharged with deadly effect. Seizing the musket barrels the valorous savages by sheer strength tore them from the hands of those who held them, then with cries of defiance thrust their spears through the same apertures. By this time three of the white men had received severe wounds, and Young was just about to remove one of the four-pounders from where it was mounted to that part of the palisading where the assault was heaviest, when the Tubuaians broke and fled.

“Whew!” said Young, wiping his powder-blackened face and addressing Christian, whose arm was being bound up by Mahina and Talalu, “that was warm while it lasted. Not badly hurt, I trust, Christian?”

“No,” answered the leader, “only a thrust from a spear through the arm; the rascal meant it for my heart, though,” and then he closed his eyes from weakness. Round him stood the seamen, stripped to their waists, with cutlasses and muskets gleaming in the dying light of the torches which still lay burning on the ground. With one hand leaning on her husband's shoulder, in the other a cutlass bloody from hilt to point, was Alrema. Like the men around her she was bare to the waist, and her shapely arms and bosom were as ensanguined as the weapon she carried.

“Nay, Etuati,” she panted with a smile when

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the light shone on her all but nude figure, and startled Young, “'tis not my blood that thou seest; not once did a spear touch me. Ah, these dogs of Tubuai! Ah, my husband, thou didst not know that in our country we women go to war side by side with our husbands and our lovers.”

Stern and callous as he was by nature, the young man shuddered visibly as he looked at the shocking appearance of his young wife; stretching out his hand he unclasped hers from the cutlass, and gently led her towards the hut in which she slept.

Christian rose to his feet and was about to follow them when Mahina stayed him. “Dost thou know whose was the hand that sent the spear?” she asked. “Come with me and I will show thee.”

In the middle of the stockade lay a naked savage. By the light of the torch held by Mahina, Christian saw the tatooing on the dead man's back and legs, and knew that he was a Tahitian.

Stooping down, Mahina turned the body over, and pointed to the face.

“Pipiri!” exclaimed Christian.

“Aye, Pipiri the Areoi; he who swore to have thy life and mine.”

“Poor devil,” said Christian in English, and then to Mahina, “he hath a bullet hole through his chest. Who killed him?”

“I,” she answered, holding out Young's pistol—the pistol with which he had once sworn to kill Captain Bligh.