Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/53

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
25
AT SCHOOL AND AT SEA

wash of the waters against the low outer fringe of coral was lost to the ear, the Bounty breasted the deep ocean; and as the distinguishable features of green tree, white sand, brown earth, and grey rock faded out of vision, wrapped in a haze of blue, till at last the only pronounced characteristic of the island standing up against the sky and sea was the cap of Point Venus at the northern extremity—the departure must have seemed to some like that of Tannhauser from the enchanted mountain, except that the legendary hero was glad to make his return to the normal world, whereas all of Bligh's company were not. For them, westward, whither they were bound,

        "There gaped the gate Whereby lost souls back to the cold earth went."

The discipline of ship's life, and the stormings and objurgations of the commanding officer, chafed like an iron collar. At length a storm burst.

On April 28 the Bounty was sailing towards Tofoa, another of the Society Islands. Just before sunrise on the following morning Bligh was aroused from sleep, seized and bound in his cabin by a band of mutineers, led out by the master's mate, Fletcher Christian, and, with eighteen companions, dropped into a launch and bidden to depart. The followers of Christian were three midshipmen and twenty-five petty officers and sailors. They turned the head of the Bounty back towards their island paradise; and as they sailed away, the mariners in the tossing little boat heard them calling "Hurrah for Tahiti!"

The frail craft in which the nineteen loyalists were compelled to attempt to traverse thousands of miles of ocean, where the navigation is perhaps the most intricate in the world, was but 23 feet long by 6 feet 9 inches broad and 2 feet 9 inches deep. Their provisions consisted of 150 pounds of bread, 16 pieces of pork, each