― 275 ―

Chapter XXXIII The Brew of Death

A FORTNIGHT after the last of the tragedies which had marked the life of the island dwellers, Christian withdrew himself for ever from all association with the rest of the white men, and spent his whole time in the cave, scarce speaking even to his now heart-broken wife, though her patient, winning ways won from him sometimes a mute caress.

By day she watched with the tenderest solicitude over her husband's lonely wanderings; by night she listened to the strange mutterings which broke his sleep; torturing her mind with dread that the end of her brief happiness was near.

The other women still lived in constant fear of some new horror, and when the white men's wives had performed their daily round of tasks for their husbands' homes, they gathered together in the dusk of the evening with the widows of the murdered men, and tremblingly asked each other what the morrow would bring forth — would it be death for all? Nothing that the white men could say could quiet

  ― 276 ―
their fears; and at last in their extremity they came to the resolution to poison all the white men who remained, lest their masters should plan some new attack upon them.

But as soon as they had come to this determination, some of them, fearful that their plans might miscarry, and their intended victims retaliate upon them with some dreadful punishment, secretly informed Young, Smith, McCoy, and Quintal of the plot. At first the white men listened incredulously, and when they did believe the story they understood that the women had been driven to this horrible device through fear alone, and not from any desire for vengeance upon their husbands' murderers. And so when one by one the plotters confessed and begged for forgiveness, Young and the others not only readily granted it, but tried hard to persuade them that their terror was groundless.

Worn with the results of a fever which, soon after the tragic end of his wife, had wasted his once great strength and muscular frame, Edward Young was now greatly changed. As he listened to the women's tale he raised his hands above his head, and swore by their gods and the Christ-God of the white men that no harm should come to them.

“Let us who are left dwell together in peace,” he said.

With fresh hope kindled in their bosoms, the poor women bent their heads to the ground and kissed his feet, and swore to work for and obey him and the other white men to the end of their lives.

  ― 277 ―

So the months went by in quiet and uneventful life, and although the little community at the settlement sometimes saw Mahina and her two children, her husband never came near them. Twice he and Young met, and the latter's face flushed deeply at the memory of the past, but Christian spoke to him calmly, without a sign of either anger or bitterness, and then went on his way indifferent to all around him.

Young himself had now so far succeeded in controlling his passion for Mahina as to marry the widow of one of the murdered Tahitians, and sought by his conduct to make her and the other women feel that their lives were in no danger. The terrible fate of Alrema had had a good and lasting effect upon his reckless nature, and there now seemed no likelihood of a further tragedy breaking the monotony of existence on the lonely island. Christian lived entirely in his cave, but occasionally worked with Mahina in the garden of their deserted house, and cheerfully gave part of its yield to those of the community whose lands were not so fruitful.

Three years passed, then there came a change. One evening McCoy walked over to Quintal's house, accompanied by Puni, his Huahine wife. Quintal and his wife Malama were rolling into a cylindrical shape a bundle of wild tobacco leaf, while their little half-blood son lay asleep.

Seating himself cross-legged on the matted floor

  ― 278 ―
beside his comrade, and briefly nodding to Malama, McCoy said, “I'm sick of this damned life, Mat; the same round day after day, night after night—no change, no pleasure. Young and Smith don't have much to say to us, and Christian is as good as a dead man, for all he has to do with us.”

“I'm as tired of it as you are, Bill,” answered Quintal; “but what are we to do? We can't leave here even if we had a good boat—we dare not.”

“No, I know that well enough; but I've an idea how we can make a life a little pleasanter—for us two, at any rate.”


“Do you remember once I was telling Brown about a ship's company that was cast away at Martinique, or some island near there, who found a plant, out of which they made barrels and barrels of good grog?”

“Well, this isn't Martinique.”

“No; but the same plant grows here. Just before poor Will Brown was killed he told me—it's the thing the women call ti.note Why, it's growing all over the island—there's acres of it in the little valley at the back of Tautumah.”

“How are we going to make it?” said Quintal, with sudden interest. “It would be a glorious thing to have a taste of grog again.”

“With the Bounty's copper boiler and my knowledge of the thing. I worked in a distillery in Dublin

  ― 279 ―
when I was a boy, and it'll go hard if I can't make a still.”

“I'm with you, my hearty. Come on, it's a fine night—let us go and get the copper out of the store house. We'll make a cradle for it, and Malama and Puni here can carry it up at once. If you can make grog out of ti root I'll say you're a damned clever fellow.”

A week later McCoy rushed into Quintal's house, “It's done, Mat, I've got good spirit; come and try it.”

Quintal did try it, not once, but several times. An hour afterwards he and his comrade reeled up to Young's house, where Smith was seated at the table, receiving instruction in reading and writing from Young. Of late this manner of passing their evenings had become a settled thing between them. What few books were on board the Bounty when Christian had run her ashore had been quietly taken possession of by Smith, and from these, with the aid of Young and his own intelligence, he was rapidly improving himself.

As he and Young sat together at the table their women occupied themselves in stitching clothes made from tappa cloth, and as they worked they spoke in low tones, lest they should disturb their white husbands.

With a drunken laugh, McCoy, followed by Quintal, staggered into the dimly-lighted room, and, steadying himself with one hand on the table, addressed Young and Smith.

  ― 280 ―

“Come and have a glass of grog, Mr. Young,” he hiccoughed.

“Yes, come along and drink confusion to the King, and bring the women with you,” cried Quintal, leering amiably at Terere and Young's wife, who had sprung to their feet in alarm; “it's good liquor we've got—none of your Bounty slops, none of Old Grog's slush, but the real thing.”

“Why, these fellows are drunk or mad,” exclaimed Young, with a look of astonishment at Smith.

“Where could they get drink?” answered Smith, looking first at one and then at the other. They met his expression of wonder with coarse guffaws.

“Get it! Why, you damned fools, we made it! I made it! What's your book learning amount to? It couldn't teach you to make prime liquor like it,” said McCoy, who was ready to quarrel with any one.

“If you have found a way of making spirit, it is about the worst thing you could have done. You'll kill yourselves with it,” said Young, who remembered that both McCoy and Quintal were several times punished while on the Bounty for drunkenness.

McCoy answered with a curse, Quintal made a threatening gesture, and a desperate quarrel would have ensued, but Smith interfered; and finally, to pacify the drunken men, he and Young went across to McCoy's house to taste his brewing.

It was fortunate for both Young and Smith that each conceived a dislike for the fiery liquor at the first taste. When McCoy and Quintal, with drunken insistence, urged them to make a night of it, and kept

  ― 281 ―
swallowing drink after drink, the other two surreptitiously threw theirs on the ground. Promising to return later on, they at last managed to escape, and get back to their frightened wives.

On the following evening the drunkards, who had slept till near noon, again appeared. This time they were so savage in their demeanour, and threatened such fearful villainies, that the other two men feared bloodshed, and hid themselves with their wives in a thicket near the house. For two days and nights the two seamen continued their drinking bout; each evening their drunken yells and horrid blasphemies reached even the dwellers in Christian's cave, and made Mahina tremblingly press her infant to her bosom.

On the morning of the third day, McCoy in his frenzy, rushed from his house, followed by the equally maddened Quintal, took the path along the edge of the cliffs, and, reaching the highest peak, threw himself headlong upon the rocks below.

A hideous laugh of approval came from Quintal as he saw McCoy leap to death, then, with a look of insane cunning, muttering and gibbering to himself, he returned to the settlement, and went inside his house. There he poured out a pannikin of the fiery liquid, and tossed it off; then, picking up an axe and a burning brand, set off at a run towards the other houses. His dreadful appearance and the wild curses he shouted upon every one sent the Tahitian women fleeing before him to seek refuge with Smith and Young, who rushed to the doorway and saw the demented creature destroying Williams' house with his axe. In a few minutes

  ― 282 ―
he had utterly wrecked it, and then, flinging down his weapon, he advanced towards Young's house, waving the firebrand in his hand.

Apparently unconscious that his movements were watched, he sprang over the low stone wall and made straight for the house, looking at the thick drooping thatch, and grinning like a fiend.

“Stand back,” cried Young, as musket in hand he pushed past Smith and the terrified women, and faced Quintal, “stand back, Quintal, and throw away that firestick, or, as God is above me, I will shoot you!”

A mocking laugh was the wretch's answer; he staggered past, and seizing a bunch of the light, dry thatch in his left hand thrust the firestick into its centre.

“I'm going to burn your——” He never finished, for Young, raising his musket, fired, and shot the miserable man dead.