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Chapter XIII Farewell to Tubuai

FOR a few days after the battle the white men remained undisturbed in the fort; but instead of the elation that might have been expected from such a decisive victory, there now fell upon the mutineers a strange, brooding feeling of discontent.

Stewart and Heywood, ever bent upon retaking the ship and returning with her to England, had again succeeded in alienating some of the men from Christian, whose disregard of their wishes to remain at Tahiti had aroused their resentment.

Working upon this, Stewart, little by little, brought some of these men to believe that if they aided him in recovering the ship, they would not only be given a free pardon for any actual part taken in the mutiny, but would be rewarded for their loyalty to Heywood and himself. Tired of the hardships and discomforts of settlement on an island where the natives were so hostile, and already regretting their severance from civilisation, they were not long in promising to aid the

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two midshipmen in any scheme devised to recapture the Bounty and sail her to England; or, failing that, to return to Tahiti and give themselves up to the King's ship that they knew would be sent in search of them.

Morrison, the boatswain's mate, in particular, professed his readiness at any time that Stewart and Heywood might appoint to join them in either seizing the ship and making Christian and Young prisoners, or escaping from Tubuai and returning to Tahiti, and Alexander Smith, ever on the alert in his devotion to Christian, soon discovered that a second plot had been devised by Stewart, Heywood, and Morrison to steal the boat, provision her, and escape in the night. It became evident to Christian that his authority would be gone if he did not either make some concessions, or crush the malcontents at once and for ever. After discussing the matter seriously with Smith and Young, he called the people together and addressed them.

“You all seem so discontented with this place,” said he, “and there are, I find, so many of you who will not hesitate to turn traitors to the rest of us, that I have determined, if you are agreed, to return to Tahiti. There, those who wish to separate from me can go, and those who wish to remain with me can do so.”

This proposal was at once agreed to. It was also resolved to divide into two parts the ship's stores and fairly share them between the two parties; then those who chose to do so could go ashore at Tahiti,

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and those who desired to stand by Christian could accompany him in the ship to some island afterwards to be decided upon by himself and his adherents.

And so once more the worn-out old Bounty was floated out to deep water, and all hands set to work to take on board her stores and armament again. That part of their labour accomplished, Christian sent parties out to collect the remainder of the live stock, which had not been seen since the attack on the fort.

But again the islanders attacked them in such force, and with such undaunted courage and fierce resolution, that the landing-party had to retreat to the ship; and, indeed, they narrowly escaped being cut off before the boat could rescue them.

Christian, who was engaged with Mahina, Alrema, and some Tahitians in bending on the Bounty's after canvas, at once opened fire from the ship to cover the retreat of his men; as soon as the boat came alongside he ordered those in her on deck for a glass of grog, and leaving the women to guard the ship, led a strong party on shore to make a second attempt.

For nearly a mile they marched through the rich tropical forest without molestation; then there suddenly broke forth the deafening rattle of the native battle-drums, and some five hundred Tubuaians—among them many women—sprang out from their ambush and made a furious attack with clubs, spears, and slings. Fortunately the ground favoured the white men, six of whom were armed with muskets loaded with slugs, and these inflicted terrible slaughter

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at the first volley. Twice did the Tubuains make determined efforts to break through and separate the white men, but throwing down their muskets and keeping the Tahitians in the centre, the seamen drew their cutlasses and hewed and slashed at the naked bodies of the savages till the leafy ground was soaked and soddened into a bloody mire. But for the slaughter inflicted by the muskets of the Tahitians, however, the enemy would have borne them down by sheer force of numbers. Christian, whose great strength and skill in all muscular exercises had made him famous in Tahiti, fought with such courage and fury that he soon had a pile of dead and dying Tubuaians forming a breastwork around him; and, leaning his weapon over their bodies, Talalu, the big Tahitian, fired into the enemy at such close range that the natives at last wavered, broke, and fled.

So exhausted, however, were Christian and his party, many of whom were badly wounded by spear-thrusts, that all further attempt to recover the stock was abandoned, and after two or three hours' rest they returned to the ship. At the landing-place they were met by a friendly chief, named Tairoa-Maina, and two of his friends, who, always having been well-disposed to Christian, took no part in the assault. They had just arrived from the principal village, where the bodies of those who fell in the attack were brought, and with grim satisfaction the mutineers learnt that fifty-six men and seven women had been killed and twice as many badly wounded, principally by cutlasses and musket slugs.

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Fearing to remain on the island after the ship sailed, Tairoa-Maina besought Christian as his pledged taio, or friend, to take him and his two companions away with him. To this the mutineer consented.

On the following day, all being in readiness, the ship well stocked with provisions, and the wind being from the S.E. the Bounty once more got under weigh. Three days later she was off the island of Maitea, a high, verdure-clad spot about seven miles in extent, lying thirty miles due east from the southern point of Tahiti.

Running in close under the lee side, Christian hove-to the ship, called all hands aft, and divided everything on board into two lots in readiness for the time of separation. Then, before the lusty trade wind, the Bounty, not waiting for the crowd of canoes that were paddling eagerly off towards her filled with natives shouting welcome, stood away due west. At dusk Tahiti was in sight, and on the following morning the ship once more lay at anchor in Matavai Bay.