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Chapter IV The First Sailing of the “Bounty”

THE time to say farewell had come at last, and from early dawn the beach was crowded with natives. For two days the genial, kindhearted people had entertained their white friends with their simple sports, and the crew of the Bounty—save for those who lay ironed and sweltering in her 'tween decks—were given liberty by their stern captain. Sometimes in the midst of the mirth and song that prevailed during the hivas or dancing of the natives, strange spells of silence would fall, and Tinā the chief and his stately wife would, with tears streaming from their eyes, leave the assembled throng and retire to their house. Tender-hearted, simple, and affectionate, they had conceived for Bligh, despite his occasional outbursts of passion and his severe treatment of the ship's company, a sincere and lasting respect; and that evening, when he came ashore dressed in his full uniform, with his sword by his side, smiling in that engaging manner which seemed so natural to him at times, even those few of the natives who feared and disliked him for his


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tyranny, demonstrated at least their respect for his rank and position in the most marked and earnest manner.

Long past midnight the singing and dancing continued, and Bligh, as he stood on the beach, grasping the hands of Tinā and Aitia in his, was content. Nearly two-thirds of his crew were ashore, and now as he stood there watching he saw them taking farewell of their native friends, who with the most extravagant demonstrations of sorrow, begged them to remain till the morning. He had no suspicion that this was assumed and that nearly half of his men had whispered to some taio (male friend) or pretty girl, “We will return soon.”

“Good-night,” he said to the chief, holding out his white hand again, “good-night, Tinā and Aitia. Remember that to-morrow, soon after daylight, we sail. Yet I shall be pleased to see you in the morning.”

Then the boatswain's whistle sounded for the men to return to the boats, and amid the weeping of those of the islanders who did not know what Mahina and the other women knew, Bligh and his men called out their farewells and pulled towards the ship.

But with the first signs of dawn, those on board, looking shoreward, saw a vast concourse of natives on that part of the beach nearest the Bounty; and every few minutes numbers of people of both sexes were arriving through the palm-groves from inland villages, carrying gifts of fruit and native clothing, intended as parting presents for the voyagers. The waters, too, of the little bay were alive with canoes; many of them


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had come from the distant villages of Taiarapu, a day's journey, laden to the water's edge with simple tokens of affection for Bligh and his crew. As the canoes passed under the Bounty's stern on their way to the shore the people in them were much affected when they noted the unmistakable signs of the ship's departure. They had daily heard for a month past from Bligh himself that he hoped to sail on the following day, but the continued delays seemed to have inspired them with hope; the Bounty's people, they believed, had become so attached to their island friends that they could not part from them, and it was even possible, to their simple minds, that Bligh would abandon the mission on which he was sent by the unknown King of England.

Sitting a little apart from the others and apparently taking no heed of the bustle around them, the girls Mahina and Nuia conversed with each other in low tones. Alrema, although accused by Tinā of helping his sister in aiding the seamen to desert, had been forgiven, and was just then, with Aitia, conveying to Bligh a farewell present of two handsome parais or mourning dresses, which were to be given to King George.

“Mahina,” and Nuia placed her hand on her friend's shoulder, “all will yet be well. Why look so sad? Dost thou doubt our lovers' promises? See, only a little while ago, Alrema went on board to see her lover Etuati—he who is now bound with iron rings on his hands and feet—and this he said to her: ‘Tell those that love us that we will return to Tahiti ere a


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moon has passed.’ Come, my friend, let us go to the ship for the last time.”

By this time the Bounty was surrounded by hundreds of canoes, and her decks were thronged with natives who, each man singling out his particular taio, or white friend, pressed upon his acceptance some farewell gift. Bligh, standing on the quarter deck, was conversing with Aitia and her husband, and behind him stood a boatswain's mate holding in his arms two muskets and two pistols, with bags of powder and ball. These were a gift from the commander to Aitia, whose skill as a markswoman rendered the gift specially pleasing and valuable.

Raising his hat, and addressing her as if she were some great English lady, the captain of the Bounty said that the gifts were in token of his own personal liking for her and her husband, and as a proof of the friendship of the king of Great Britain. Then, while a respectful silence fell upon every one on board, the stately Aitia touched her forehead with the weapons one after another, and flinging herself at Bligh's feet clasped them in her hands and wept.

Gently disengaging her hands the commander straightened his slender figure, and his sharp tones rang out: “Clear the decks, Mr. Christian; and you, Tinā, ask your people to get into their canoes. Aitia, goodbye; Tinā, goodbye.”

Christian, who had just bidden a hurried, passionate farewell to Mahina, sprang to the ship's forecastle and then some of the seamen manned the little capstan; the fiddler took his seat upon its head and scraped a


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dismal tune, every now and then breaking off in the middle of a bar to wave his bow to some Tahitian friend whom he knew, as he or she went over the side to a canoe. The ship was already hove short; and a few fathoms of the great hemp cable flaked upon the deck soon brought the anchor to the cathead. The topsails bellied out as the wind filled them; the men sprang aloft to man the yards at the word of command from Bligh, who had explained to Tinā that with this ceremony and the firing of guns the ships of King George saluted the sovereigns of other nations; but as the gun-firing might injure the breadfruit plants on board it would be omitted. The sailors aloft gave a last cheer, the water began to ripple and bubble under the bluff bows of the Bounty and from the crowd of sorrowing people burst a cry of “Ioarana no ti atua ti” (“May the gods protect thee for ever and ever”).

A puff rippled across the bay, the ship lay over to it and sped quickly towards the passage between the roaring lines of surf which leapt and seethed upon the shelving ledges of coral reef. In another five minutes the vessel's bows rose and fell to the sweep of the ocean swell, and the Bounty stood out into the open sea.

Then those who watched from the shore saw her square her yards and head to the south, for Bligh intended to call at the Friendly Islands before proceeding to the West Indies. Hour after hour, and still the people watched the lessening canvas of the ship sink below the horizon. Towards noon the breeze failed, and not till the green shadows of the mountains turned


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into a soft purple under the rays of the setting sun was the white speck lost to sight.

Then Mahina and Nuia, who were the last to go, turned sadly away and went home to their dwellings of thatch to wait and hope.

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