Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/127

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123
A HISTORY OF TAHITI

of such officers as might have come to their comamnder's aid, but obedient to young Christian's orders, the Bounty's launch, a boat only 23 feet long, was lowered, and Bligh and 18 of his men were forced over the side crowding the frail craft until the gunwale was but seven inches above the level of the sea.

But mercy came to temper the fate of those who were to be sent adrift. A hundred and fifty pounds of bread, some water and some wine, a little pork, charts, a sextant, a compass, and a few cutlasses were thrown into the boat. Guns the mutineers refused, and then the commander and his faithful few were cast away.

As if in exultation the Bounty awakened to the impulse of the morning breeze and glided off upon the rippling sea while from the throats of her ruffian crew the cry arose "huzza for Otaheiti." As the cheer came over the waters, it brought to Bligh a sense of high resolve to make the best of the narrow chance for life and home that lay before him and his men. But Christian, the mutineer, they say stood moodily with folded arms, his eyes fixed upon the drifting boat which stood for all that remained of law and order on the wave.

A gentleman by birth and training, he might have risen high, an honored servant of his country. Too late the villain cheer revealed to him the dark import of his vengeful act. An outcast he must be forevermore. In a world apart from Europe he must live, and memories of youth and home and friends of other days rose up to curse him as he sailed, archpirate as he was, into a life of wantonness and ruin.

The volcanic peak of Tofoa, one of the Tongan Islands, rose dimly above the northern horizon and toward it Bligh and his men set oars and sail hoping to increase their scanty store of food and water. In this they were foiled for the natives seeing them helpless attacked them with stones, killing one and wounding all so that they considered their ultimate escape fortunate. On and on they sailed for dull days and nights, and always onward until they passed through the uncharted Fiji group and discovered the northern New Hebrides, never daring to land though they suffered all the pangs of starvation. Two meals a day each consisting of 1/25 of a pound of bread and 1/4 of a pint of water were all stern Captain Bligh allowed, for his destination was Timor, full 3,600 miles from Tonga. His journal describes their suffering in minute detail, and one must respect the courage and resourcefulness of the leader who cheated death a hundred times in the course of this awful voyage. Through starless nights of storm, bailing constantly, fighting the overwhelming sea, shivering in the rain, blinded by the roasting eastern sun, racked with pain, cramped almost beyond endurance as they crouched sleepless within the boat, they still went on and on and each returning noon saw them nearly 100 miles nearer to Timor.

Occasionally they succeeded in seizing the gulls which flew near the